Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the unusual growth of skin cells. It is also the most universal type of cancer found in or on the human body.

Skin Cancer is most prevalent among people who spend a lot of time outside, exposed to ultraviolet radiation, for work, sports or just for leisure.

Fair-skinned people produce less melanin (protective pigment in the outer layer of the skin) and is therefore more likely to develop most types of skin cancers.

Dark-skinned people can also develop skin cancer, or even people who have little or no exposure to the sun.

There are three types of skin cancer:

Basal cell carcinoma materialises in areas of the body that is most exposed to the sun e.g. face, neck.

Melanoma can occur all over the body.

Squamous cell carcinoma materialises on sun exposed areas of the body e.g. face, ears and hands. This is most common in people with darker skin, on areas that are not exposed to the sun that often.

Signs and Symptoms

Basal cell carcinoma

  • Pearly/ Waxy bump
  • Flat, flesh coloured/ brown scar like wound
  • Bleeding/ scabbing wound that keeps on returning

Melanoma

  • Large brown spot that has darker sports
  • Mole that changes in colour/ size/ feel that bleed
  • Small wound with unnatural borders and is red/ pink/ white/ blue or blue-black of colour
  • Painful wound that burns and itches
  • Dark wounds that appear on palms, soles, finger tips and toes or on mucous membranes lining the mouth, nose, vagina or anus

Squamous cell carcinoma

  • Firm, red nodule
  • Flat/ scaly/ crusted surface

Diagnosis

Diagnosis can be determined by means of a biopsy (removal of small piece of tissue). This will confirm the stage and extent of the cancer.

Risk Factors

  • Fair Skin
  • History of sunburns
  • Excessive sun exposure
  • Sunny or high-altitude climates
  • Moles
  • Precancerous skin wounds
  • Family history of skin cancer
  • Personal history of skin cancer
  • Weakened immune system
  • Exposure to radiation
  • Exposure to certain substances

Treatment

The majority of skin cancers can be treated through surgical removal.

When the cancer is larger than normal and more invasive, it can still be removed surgically, but it requires a larger piece of skin to be removed. This also then requires a skin graft or skin flap on the area where the skin is removed.