What Are the Symptoms of Skin Cancer?
The British Association of Dermatologists has estimated that there are approximately 100,000 new cases of skin cancer in the UK each year, making it one of the commonest forms of cancer. Fortunately it is for the most part one of the more easily treated forms of cancer, provided it is diagnosed early. In this article we detail the key symptoms of skin cancer and discuss some preventative measures that can be taken, but first we shall take a brief look at the three different types of skin cancer:
Malignant Melanoma- This is the most serious and least common type of skin cancer and occurs in around 10% of cases. Early diagnosis is essential as untreated melanomas can quickly spread to the body’s internal organs. Moles that change colour or grow in size can be a sign of a malignant melanoma.
Squamous cell carcinoma- This cancer is often caused by over-exposure to the sun, Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer. The recovery rate for this type is relatively high, and the chances of a full recovery are increased dramatically by early diagnosis and removal.
Basal cell melanoma- This is the most common type of skin cancer. This type of cancer has low mortality rates but can spread significantly. Recovery rate is high, particularly if it is identified early and treated quickly.
The following are common early signs of cancer. If you have a regular skin care regime, make it a priority to check for such signs when doing so.
- Persistent skin sores
- Moles that grow or change colour
- Large brown or darkened spots
- Red or pinkish lumps
- Persistently itchy or irritated areas of skin
- Any other significant and unexplained change to any areas of the skin
Discovering one or more of these does not necessarily indicate cancer, but it is strongly recommended that a doctor’s diagnosis is sought immediately.
The majority of skin cancer cases are caused by prolonged exposure to the sun. Light from the sun contains ultraviolet (UV) rays which damage the skin cells. The risks of developing cancer are significantly greater for those who work outdoors, have fair skin or spend a lot time sunbathing.
Some skin conditions may also raise the risk of developing skin cancer, as can burns and scars on areas of the skin open to the sun.
Regular contact with certain chemicals can indirectly cause cancer. These include petroleum products, asphalt, soot and tar. Smoking has also been linked to increased risk of developing squamous cell carcinomas.
While skin cancer is one of the more treatable forms of cancer, the best treatment of all is prevention. There are many minor lifestyle changes you can make today to significantly reduce your chance of developing skin cancer including:
- Avoiding excessive amounts of time in intense sunshine
- Covering up when out in the sun
- Using strong sun creams and blocks
- If trying to get a tan, do so gradually to avoid burning and sun damage
- Using protective gloves and equipment when handling chemicals
- Being vigilant and seeking medical advice if any changes in the skin are noticed
Skin cancer is the most preventable form of cancer, and by following these tips and using common sense you can protect yourself and your family.