One of the most predominant forms of cancers is skin cancer. Individuals who have fair skin and burn easily may be at a higher risk of skin cancer during their lifetime. While sun exposure is the main culprit, other causes include regular exposure to x-rays, coal tar, and arsenic; genetics; and scarring from burns or diseases.
ACTINIC KERATOSES (AK):
Actinic keratosis is considered the earliest stage of skin cancer. They are scaly spots that are small in size and most commonly found on the ears, face, neck, lower arms, and back of the hands. They are frequently found on fair-skinned people who have had extensive sun exposure. Treatment of Actinic keratoses includes topical chemotherapy (applying a cream or lotion), cryotherapy (freezing), chemical peeling, laser surgery, dermabrasion, curettage, and Photodynamic therapy (a chemical is applied to the skin prior to exposure to a light source). When actinic keratosis has progressed to the advanced stages they will require more extensive treatment. Even after the skin has received extensive sun damage actinic keratoses can be prevented with the proper use of sunscreen.
BASAL CELL CARCINOMA (BCC)
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer found on areas such as the hands, head, and neck. Typically this form of cancer is characterized as small nodules or fleshy bumps. This form often appears on fair-skinned patients and rarely on those of ethnic backgrounds. This slow-growing cancer can bleed, crust, and continue to be problematic if untreated. It can also extend deeper into the skin and cause damage to nerves and bone underneath without proper treatment and/or removal.
The deadliest form of skin cancer is malignant melanoma, though death rates are declining since many patients are being diagnosed during the earlier stages during which is it typically curable.
This form of skin cancer starts out in the melanocytes of the skin. These cells produce melanin, the dark pigmentation which causes the skin to tan. Because of this, many of the melanoma cells have colors such as tan, brown, or black but also reds and whites. This particular form of cancer can spread and often starts around a mole or dark spot on the skin. Patients who notice changes in moles, skin tags, and other growths should have them evaluated by a doctor.
The risk of developing malignant melanoma can be reduced with lessened sun exposure. While heredity can play a part in one's chance of developing cancer, reducing sun exposure can help in reducing the probability of development. People of all skin colors can develop melanoma, though it is commonly diagnosed in fair-skinned individuals.
SQUAMOUS CELL CARCINOMA (SCC)
The second most common type of skin cancer is squamous cell carcinoma. This is rarely seen in dark-skinned patients and more commonly in fair-skinned individuals. It is normally seen in areas such as the lips, mouth, face, or ear and presents as a scaly red patch or a bump. They may become invasive if they grow into larger masses. It is important for patients to seek early diagnosis and treatment as this form of cancer can spread. The cure rate of this specific cancer is 95% with early diagnosis.
The ABCDE's of Identifying Melanoma
Asymmetry – both sides of the mole or skin growth do not match in size, shape, and colors.
Border Irregularity – poorly defined borders should be examined closely by a dermatologist
Color – blotchy colors and changes to the color of moles are concerns
Diameter – watch for skin growths approximately 6mm or larger, though some may present smaller
Evolution – changes to a mole or skin growth
Skin Cancer Treatment
When biopsies reveal skin cancer, a doctor may provide patients with a variety of surgical procedures and medical treatments which can help in removing the cancerous cells. This may include cryosurgery, electrodessication and curettage, surgical excision, radiation, topical chemotherapy, or Mohs micrographic surgery.
Surest Cure: Early Detection
It is important that everyone inspects their body regularly for skin changes. When moles, sores, or skin growths appear or begin to change, it is essential to seek the assistance of a dermatologist. This can also be done during an annual skin examinations appointment which is necessary for adults with many moles, past sun exposure, and genetic predisposition.
Avoidance of the Sun is the Best Defense
Limiting overexposure to UV light, such as that delivered by the sunlight and tanning beds, can reduce one's risk of skin cancer. This is the primary cause. Patients should avoid intense times of sun exposure (between 10am and 4pm), wear protective clothing, apply sunscreen with SPF of 30 or more, and reapply sunscreen regularly while in the sun or after exposure to water.
We put academic qualifications, many years of combined experience, and training in a variety of special interest areas to work for your healthy, radiant skin. Our providers – Drs. Schachter, Hanna, Curtis, Abdulla, Pollack, and Taradash – welcome new patients for treatment at the Dermatology on Bloor practice on Park Road in Toronto. Our team is here to serve your needs