Skin cancer is a disease in which cancer (malignant) cells are found in the outer layers of your skin. Skin cancer can be caused in different ways. Malignant Melanoma is the most serious of the common skin cancers. You can check for symptoms for skin cancer. There are different treatments used in skin cancer. There are also different ways to prevent skin cancer. Skin cancer can be caused in different ways. The leading cause of skin cancer is caused by long term over exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Damaging the ozone layer causes a higher level of UV light to reach the earth’s surface.
Skin cancer can be hereditary. You can easily develop skin cancer. Repeated exposure to the sun’s damaging ultraviolet light can cause skin cancer. Ultraviolet light injures the DNA in skin cells, which then directs the cells to commit suicide (Fackelmann 422). People who work outdoors such as farmers and sailors are more likely to get skin cancer then people who are indoors most of the time. Most people receive 80% of their lifetime exposure to the sun by the age of 18 (Silverstien 40). Damaging the ozone layer causes a higher level of UV light to reach the earth’s surface.
The ozone serves as a filter to screen out and reduce the amount of UV light that we are exposed to. Pollution from the earth thins the ozone layer. As the ozone layer is reduced, the earth’s surface is exposed to more of the shorter UV wavelengths of the sun’s radiation that damage living things. For each 10 percent depletion of the ozone layer, we can expect 20 percent more radiation in these damaging wavelengths (“An Introduction to Skin Cancer”, 1997). Skin cancer can be hereditary. If you have a history of skin cancer in your family, then you are probably at a higher risk.
The p16 gene appears to be linked to inherited melanoma. Other genes have been associated with skin cancer, but tests are not yet on the market. In other words skin cancer can be carried in a gene (Rubin 66). You can easily develop skin cancer. There are also other ways to develop skin cancer. It is becoming so common in the U. S. Just being outside for short periods each day without sunscreen, is your stardom to developing skin cancer. Most people don’t even think they are at risk, but in reality we all are. Malignant melanoma is the most serious of the common skin cancers.
Malignant melanoma first appears as a light brown to black irregularly shaped blemish. The first symptom noticed by patients is growth. Some patients use surgery for treating malignant melanoma. Others use biological therapy. Malignant melanoma is more serious than squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma. Melanoma is a malignancy whose progression is analogous to other solid tumors such as colon or breast. Except for lung cancer in women, the incidence of melanoma is growing faster than any cancer in the United States. It is increasing at an alarming rate of 4 to 5 percent per year.
It has become one of the more common cancers among young adults aged 20 to 40, accounting for up to one-third of all cancer cases among that age group (Mullins, 1996). Malignant melanoma first appears as a light brown to black irregularly shaped blemish. It may also arise in a mole – a junctional or dysplastic mevus -, which has been present for some years. 7 Melanoma can also appear on the body as a new mole. Men most often get melanoma on their trunk or on their head or neck. Women most often get melanoma on their arms and legs (“An Introduction to Skin Cancer”, 1997).
The first symptom noticed by patients, in melanoma, is growth. If a mole grows so rapidly and doubles its size in three to six months, then it may be malignant. It is important to note the direction of the growth in malignant melanoma. Usually, the melanoma starts its spread outwards, as a flat, enlarging, stain on the skin and you will find difficulty in feeling its whereabouts when you pass your fingers over the area with you eyes closed. This is called horizontal growth in the skin and it is the very earliest stage of malignancy (“Malignant Melanoma”, 1996).
Surgery is the primary treatment for all stages of melanoma. Your doctor may take out the melanoma using one of the following operations: Conservative re-excision, an operation to take out any cancer that remains following biopsy, along with a small amount of skin around it. Wide surgical excision takes out the cancer and some of the skin around the tumor. You may need to have skin taken from another area of the body and put on the place where the cancer has been taken out. This is called grafting (“Skin Cancer and Melanoma”). Biological therapy tries to get your own body to fight cancer.
It uses materials made by your own body or made in a laboratory to boost, direct, or restore your body’s natural defenses against disease. Biological treatment is sometimes called biological response modifier therapy or immunotherapy. Biological therapy has not been shown to be effective in treating melanoma. Clinical trials are being done to find biological therapies that are effective (“Skin Cancer and Melanoma”). There are different symptoms of skin cancer. The easier-to-cure types of skin cancer usually show up as pale, wax-like, pearly nodules. Staging is a process of finding out how widespread a cancer is.
There are four stages in the process. Performing self-examinations will help detect symptoms of skin cancer. The easier-to-cure types of skin cancer usually show up as pale, wax-like, pearly nodules. Sometimes they show up as red, scaly patches. Skin cancers will sometimes itch. Non-melanoma skin cancers can look like a variety of marks on the skin. The key warning signs are a new growth, a spot that’s getting larger (over a few months or 1-2 years), or a sore that doesn’t heal within 3 months (Fine 115). Staging is a process of finding out how widespread a cancer is.
The process includes describing its size as well as whether the cancer has spread to any other organs. The most common system used to describe the stage of non-melanoma skin cancer is the TNM system. T stands for tumor, N stands for spread to lymph nodes, and M is for metastasis. To assign a stage, information about the tumor, lymph nods, and metastasis is combined according to a process called stage grouping to assign a stage. The stage is described by number in Roman numerals form I to IV (“American Cancer Society”, 1998). During stage I, the cancer is not larger than 2 cm, without spread to lymph nodes or other organs.
During stage II, the cancer is between 2 cm and 5cm, without spread to lymph nodes or other organs. During stage III, the cancer is larger than 5cm and/or it has spread to lymph nodes. The cancer has not spread to distant organs such as the lungs. During stage IV, the cancer can be any size. It has spread to distant organs such as the lungs or brain (“American Cancer Society”, 1998). After showering, check yourself in a well-lighted room using a full-length mirror and a hand-held mirror. Start by checking moles and birthmarks you’ve had since birth.
Look for changes, especially a new mole or skin discoloration, a sore that does not heal, or any change in the size, shape, texture, or color of an existing mole. If you find anything suspicious, visit a dermatologist right away and ask for a full-body exam (“Checking Yourself Out”, 1998). There are different treatments used for treating skin cancer. Surgery is the most common treatment for skin cancer. Surgery may also leave a scar on your skin. Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Biological therapy uses your body’s immune system to fight cancer. Surgery is the most common treatment for skin cancer.
Electrodesiccation and curettage burns the lesion and removes it with a sharp instrument. Cryosurgery freezes the tumor and kills it. Simple excision cuts the cancer from your skin along with some of the healthy tissue around it. Micrographic surgery removes the cancer and uses as little normal tissue as possible (“Skin Cancer Fact Sheet”, 1995). Surgery may leave a scar on your skin. Depending on the size of the cancer, skin may be taken from another part of your body and put on the area where the cancer was removed. This is called a skin graft. New ways of doing surgery and grafting may reduce scarring.
Another way is laser therapy, which uses a narrow beam of light to remove cancer cells (“Skin Cancer and Melanoma”) Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. In treating skin cancer, chemotherapy is often given as a cream or lotion placed on the skin to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may also be taken by pill, or it may be put into the body by a needle in a vein or muscle. Chemotherapy given in this way is called a systemic treatment because the drug enters the bloodstream, travels through the body, and can kill cancer cells outside the skin (“Skin Cancer and Melanoma”).
Biological therapy tries to get your own body to fight cancer. It uses your immune system. The materials made by you own body or make in a laboratory are used to boost, direct, or restore your body’s natural defenses against disease. Biological therapy is sometimes called biological response modifier therapy or immunotherapy. Biological therapy is being tested in clinical trials (“Skin Cancer and Melanoma”). There are different ways to prevent skin cancer. We first need to educate the young generation about skin cancer. Self-examination reduces the occurrence of cancer. Applying sunscreen will help prevent skin cancer.
Most importantly avoid over exposure to UV radiation. Prevention education is important for children and adults, as sunburns in childhood significantly increase the risk of developing skin cancer later on in life. Because of this risk, special efforts should be made to protect children from the sun. Children have the greatest lifetime potential to benefit from positive sun protection habits. Healthy behavior patterns established early in childhood often persist throughout life. Educating parents and caregivers will help to shape healthy attitudes and behaviors regarding sun activities (“Skin Cancer: Prevention”, 1996).
It is a fact that self-examination reduces the occurrence of skin cancer. People who examine themselves – looking for moles that change color, shape, or size – were 44 percent less likely to die of skin cancer than those who do not. Approximately 35,000 people in the United States develop skin cancer each year. Self-examination also reduces the risk of getting melanoma by 34 percent. In order for skin self-examination (SSE) to actually reduce the occurrence of cancer, people must notice precancerous growths and have them removed before they progress to melanoma (Science News, 47).
Applying sunscreen will help prevent skin cancer. Apply sunscreen with at least a SPF-15 or higher to all areas of the body which are exposed to the sun. Reapply sunscreen every two hours. Reapply after swimming or perspiring. Use sunscreen even on hazy days or days with light or broken cloud coverage, because the UV light still comes through (“An Introduction to Skin Cancer”, 1997). Most importantly avoid over exposure to UV radiation. Minimize your exposure to the sun at midday and between the hours of 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM. Avoid sunlamps and tanning booths.
It is impossible to completely avoid sunlight and it would be unwise to reduce your level of physical activity. You can protect your skin from skin cancer just by following these guidelines (“American Cancer Society”, 1998). In conclusion skin cancer is a deadly disease. It can be very dangerous. Many people don’t realize how serious it really is. Some of us know but still want that beautiful or just simply forget to put on sunscreen. But by taking better precautions in the sun and by educating the young generation, we can overcome skin cancer.