The widespread effect of cancer is something that has affected the lives of most people on earth in some way or another. It is a disease of the cells, and there are a wide variety of cells that comprise the human body. However, the one thing that all forms of cancer have in common is that they are caused by cells which have become abnormal and are multiplying out of control.
At this time, the most common form of cancer on earth is skin cancer. Each year, there are more than one million Americans who are diagnosed with some type of skin cancer. There are actually three major types of skin cancer: melanoma, basal cell carcinoma (BCC), and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). The first two types are much more common than melanomas, but the later is a much more aggressive form of cancer that often spreads to other parts of the body when not treated early.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
This is the most common form of skin cancer in the world today. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) tends to be more common amongst older people. This may be a result of the lack of sun protection that was utilized in the past. In either case, studies have shown that people older than 70 are more likely to have this skin cancer than people in their fifties.
Basal cell carcinoma usually occurs in a patch of skin that has seen a significant level of sun-exposure, such as the neck or the head. However, this cancer can form on any portion of skin on the body. The initial sign of BCC is usually the appearance of a tiny pinkish, red, or pearly bump on a patch of skin that was clear before. While the bump is often circular, they can differ in shape and color.
Over time, this bump may crust over, bleed, or ulcerate every now and then. These skin ulcers that are produced by BCC are sometimes referred to as rodent ulcers, given their overall appearance. Fortunately, basal cell carcinoma does not metastasize often, but it can cause some irreparable damage to the local area if it is left untreated. For instance, this skin cancer can cause significant damage to the nose if action is not taken.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common type of skin cancer. Just like basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma tends to be diagnosed more often in older people. If you are in your seventies, then you may want to consider making an appointment with your dermatologist for a skin cancer check.
Most cases of squamous cell carcinoma develop on the patient’s face, in particular on or near the lips and the ears. However, it can occur on any part of the skin, just like basal cell carcinoma. Initial signs of SCC include crusty or scaly patches or skin that has a reddish or pink base. These can eventually become a wart like lump on the skin which will bleed or ulcerate on occasion.
If this skin cancer is allowed to grow bigger and deeper, it can cause additional damage to the localized area. In some cases, untreated SCC has eventually caused the complete destruction of a patient’s ear or nose. While uncommon, squamous cell carcinoma can metastasize to other areas of the body.
Melanoma (Malignant Skin Cancer)
This is the least common type of skin cancer, but it is also the most aggressive and deadly. Melanoma has the highest risk of metastasizing to other areas of the body. At this time, melanoma is the second most common cancer that is diagnosed in people between the ages of 15 and 34. Further research has also shown that it is more common among young women than young men.
Mostly, melanoma begins as a tiny dark spot on the skin (somewhat like a mole). It can develop from a mole that is already there, or an unblemished patch of skin. However, this type of skin cancer will be different than a mole in one of these ways:
- It’s shape is asymmetrical or uneven, while a mole is most often even and round.
- The edges of melanoma are blurry, notched, or even ragged in appearance. Moles have a well-defined edge.
- Melanoma does not often have a uniform color to it (more like 2 to 3 shades of color).
- Melanoma is often bigger than the average mole, and it will continue to get bigger if left untreated.
(Melanoma may begin to bleed, itch, ulcerate, or crust over as it grows further into the patient’s skin.)
Protect Yourself from Skin Cancer
As you are probably aware, the primary cause of skin cancer is prolonged sun exposure which damages the skin. This is the case for all the major types of skin cancer that are diagnosed in the United States every year. If you have been sunburned on multiple occasions in the past, you probably have a higher chance of developing skin cancer. The most dangerous aspect of sunshine is the presence of ultraviolet rays. Without the help of sunscreen, these rays can damage the skin cells enough to the point where they become cancerous.