The most prevalent form of cancer in the United States is skin cancer, with over half a million new cases diagnosed every year. Skin cancer can appear anywhere on the body, but the majority of cancerous formations are found on the head, face, and neck. Ultraviolet radiation, which is emitted from the sun and artificial sources of sunlight such as sun lamps and tanning beds, is the leading cause of skin cancer. The rising number of reported occurrences of skin cancer may be due to vanity tanning, the diminishing ozone layer, and outdoor social activities and functions.
There are certain factors that contribute to one’s predisposition to skin cancer, which are the environment, genetics, medical treatments, and heredity. Areas that receive year long sunshine, are high in altitude, or close to the equator compromise the skin’s health, especially if those exposed to sun neglect to protect it with SPF. The physical traits that place people at a greater risk for skin cancer are fair skin, eyes, and hair and an abundance or unusual presence of freckles and moles. Certain medical procedures that expose patients to direct radiation of the skin, often acne treatments, are now known to be harmful and carcinogenic. The last factor that that places people at a higher risk for melanoma is their family’s health history. If any member of your family has been diagnosed with skin cancer, you should take extra measures to prevent the condition from occurring in you.
The Different types of Skin Cancer
Although some forms of skin cancer can be deadly, the commonly occurring basal cell carcinoma holds the smallest degree of danger in comparison with other forms of skin cancer. Basal cell carcinoma grows locally, atypically spreading to other areas of the body or rapidly increasing in size. If it is suspected that you have this type of growth, your doctor will probably recommend removal, because if left untreated, the growth can root itself below the skin and damage deeper tissues.
The second most commonly occurring form of skin cancer is squamous cell carcinoma, which is often found on the face, especially the lips and ears. When left untreated, squamous cell carcinoma can spread to the inside of the body and pose a deadly threat if the cancer reaches organs or the lymph nodes.
The least prevalent – yet most threatening – type of skin cancer is malignant melanoma. Southwestern and southern states have reported a recent increased occurrence of this form of skin cancer in those regions. Malignant melanoma must be treated during its early stages because it can progressively move through the body as an internal form of cancer.
Skin cancer can manifest itself through varying appearances, so it is best to be seen by your doctor if you feel that you have irregular skin tissues. Basic knowledge of the common appearances of these cancers may help you know when there is a cause for concern. The two types of cell carcinomas previously mentioned can first appear as a small, lightly colored bump. The texture can be smooth, or an uneven cluster of pits. Basal and squamous cell carcinomas may begin as a red spot on the skin that can be rough and dry or firm. These forms of skin cancer can also appear as red sores in the skin that do not heal within a few weeks, or heal into a white scar-like area of skin.
Malignant melanoma is often characterized by a change in the appearance of a mole that has been present on the skin, or the formation of a new growth. When the color, size, or shape of a current mole suddely changes, there may be cause for concern. A healthy mole is symmetrical with a definite border, and one solid color. Normal skin growths should be no larger than six milimeters. It is important to examine your skin at least once a month so you will know when irregularities occur on the exterior of your body.
Skin Cancer Treatment
If a suspicious skin lesion has been deemed cancerous by microscopic details, there are several methods of treatment available. Surgery is one of the most common ways to remove a cancerous growth, as is the curettage and desiccation procedure. Skin cancer cells can also be frozen during a cryosurgery, or undergo radiation therapy. Topical drugs may aid in the destruction of damaging cancer cells as well. Dr. Gentile will explain each appropriate treatment for your skin cancer lesion in full detail during your consultation with him.
Visiting Your Plastic Surgeon
Many people are unaware that plastic surgeons are able to perform the inital diagnosis as well as the extraction of a cancerous growth. Plastic surgeons specialize in the aesthetic nature of healing, therefore they can hide incisions within natural folds of the skin, or perform skin grafts to ensure the best looking final result. Form and function will both play a role in your surgeon’s efforts.
Although the treatment of skin cancer is critical to a person’s health, the procedures used to extract the cancerous tissue can often leave behind an unsightly mark. Plastic surgeons are able to treat cancerous tissue for certain cases, but other times they perform secondary surgeries known as reconstructive surgeries for patients. Facial features are prone to developing cancerous growths because they receive sunlight all year round, but a removal surgery can disfgure the lips, nose, or ears of a patient. During a reconstructive plastic surgery at Dr. Gentile’s Ohio clinic, the goal is to restore a person’s appearance to that of pre-surgical conditions.
To ensure the safety of your skin, it is advised that you visit your plastic surgeon or dermatologist regularly to be checked for cancerous growths. You should regularly apply sunscreen of at least SPF 15, regardless of the weather or time of year. Ultraviolet radiation is strong, and often unhindered by clouds, shade and other conditions. The sun’s UV rays are the strongest from 10:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M. so try to avoid exposure altogether during these hours. Also, wear clothing that covers your body if you are going to be in the sun for long periods of time.