As the largest organ in the body, our skin is constantly exposed to the sun, pollution, and other environmental factors that can cause damage. Skin cancer is a common disease that occurs when abnormal cells in the skin grow out of control. While it is often curable if detected early, skin cancer can be deadly if left untreated.
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer worldwide, affecting millions of people each year. There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are the most common and are usually not life-threatening. Melanoma, on the other hand, is less common but can be deadly if not detected and treated early.
How Do We Get Infected with Skin Cancer
The main cause of skin cancer is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds. UV radiation damages the DNA in our skin cells, leading to mutations that can cause the cells to grow out of control and form a cancerous tumor.
Skin Cancer During Summer Season
Summer season is the time when people are more exposed to the sun, which increases the risk of developing skin cancer. It is important to take preventive measures such as wearing protective clothing, using sunscreen, and seeking shade during peak hours of sun exposure.
Signs and Symptoms
Skin cancer can develop on any part of the body, but it’s more likely to occur on areas that are frequently exposed to sunlight, such as the face, neck, hands, and arms. Here are some common signs and symptoms of skin cancer to watch out for:
- Changes in the size, shape, or color of a mole or freckle.
- A mole or freckle that starts to itch, bleed, or become tender.
- A sore that doesn’t heal or a scab that keeps reappearing.
- A new growth or bump on the skin that looks shiny, waxy, or pearly.
- A flat, reddish patch that is rough or scaly and may bleed easily.
- A dark streak or stripe under a fingernail or toenail.
There are several factors that increase the risk of developing skin cancer, including:
- Sun exposure: Exposure to UV radiation from the sun or tanning beds is the primary cause of skin cancer.
- Family history: People with a family history of skin cancer have a higher risk of developing the disease.
- Fair skin: People with fair skin, light hair, and blue or green eyes have a higher risk of developing skin cancer.
- Age: Skin cancer is more common in people over the age of 50.
- Gender: Men are more likely than women to develop skin cancer.
- Weakened immune system: People with a weakened immune system, such as those with HIV/AIDS or who have undergone an organ transplant, have an increased risk of skin cancer.
- Exposure to certain chemicals: Exposure to certain chemicals, such as arsenic or coal tar, increases the risk of skin cancer.
When Should You Go to a Doctor
If you notice any suspicious changes in your skin, such as new growths or changes in the appearance of existing moles, you should consult a doctor as soon as possible. Early detection and treatment are crucial for improving the chances of a successful outcome.
Treatments for Skin Cancer
- Surgery: This is the most common treatment option for skin cancer. During surgery, the cancerous growth is removed along with a small amount of healthy skin tissue surrounding it. The procedure is typically done under local anesthesia and may be performed in a doctor’s office.
- Radiation therapy: This treatment involves the use of high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy may be used to treat skin cancer that is difficult to remove surgically or to treat cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.
- Chemotherapy: This treatment involves the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be used to treat skin cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.
- Immunotherapy: This treatment involves the use of drugs to stimulate the body’s immune system to attack and destroy cancer cells. Immunotherapy is often used to treat advanced skin cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.
- Photodynamic therapy: This treatment involves the use of a special drug that is activated by light to kill cancer cells. The drug is applied to the skin and then activated with a special light source.
Preventing Skin Cancer
Preventing skin cancer is key to maintaining healthy skin. Here are some measures you can take to reduce your risk of developing skin cancer:
- Wear protective clothing: When you are outside, it’s essential to protect your skin from harmful UV rays by wearing a hat, sunglasses, and long-sleeved shirts.
- Apply sunscreen: Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 on all exposed skin. Reapply every two hours or more frequently if you are swimming or sweating.
- Seek shade: Avoid direct sunlight between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when UV rays are strongest.
- Avoid tanning beds: Tanning beds emit harmful UV radiation, increasing your risk of developing skin cancer.
- Get regular checkups: It’s important to have your skin checked regularly by a dermatologist. If you notice any changes in your skin or new growths, make an appointment to get them checked out.
- Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water can help keep your skin healthy and hydrated, reducing the risk of skin damage and cancer.
- Know your skin: Be aware of any changes in your skin, such as new growths or changes in the size, shape, or color of existing moles. If you notice anything unusual, get it checked by a dermatologist.