Skin cancer is a malignancy in the skin that affects millions of Americans every year. Although it is one of the most common cancers among all types, it is highly curable when treated at the earlier stages. This disease is often associated with UV rays, radiation and now, even pollutants.
There are three common types of this cancer. They are classified according to the type of skin cell affected by the malignancy.
Basal cell carcinoma: Known to be the most widespread, this type develops underneath the epidermis. Body parts that are often exposed to UV rays, such as neck and head, are the most commonly affected. Although this type is the most common, the growth of cancer cells is still relatively slow and the rate of spreading is highly unlikely. Nonetheless, worsening is still possible.
Squamous cell carcinoma: This type of skin cancer is the second most common. It is often more visible as it affects the top layer of the epidermis. Also often occurring on body parts exposed to sunlight, it is seen on the surface in the form of reddish lumps. When not cured earlier, it can spread to hidden body surfaces and ultimately, even the lymph nodes.
Melanoma: This aggressive form is the most fatal of all, and in fact, most deaths accounted for cancer of the skin are blamed on this type. It causes abnormalities in the pigment cells known as melanocytes, located in the bottom layer of the epidermis. And because Caucasians have more melanocytes than brown people and African Americans, they are ten times more susceptible to this dangerous disease.
There is a fourth type of cancer of the skin but this is extremely rare. Called Merkel cell carcinoma, this type is associated to a virus and can only affect old people and those who have weak immune systems.
The most common symptoms of skin cancer are any changes in size, color, shape or texture of an already existing mole. A mole that increases in size, becomes rough or itchy, or bleeds, should be brought to a doctor right away. Also, any development of new moles should be monitored.