Skin cancer is most likely caused by overexposure to sunlight. Research however, also suggests that genetics can play a role in a patient’s likelihood of contracting some form of this disease. There are three main types of this cancer, each with its own characteristic appearance and behavior. While some forms of this cancer are more aggressive than others, it is important to detect skin cancer as early as possible, since early detection greatly increases the chances for patient survival.
Skin Cancer Signs and Symptoms
Detecting skin cancer is not easy. The first physical sign of this malady that people notice is something that appears like a mole or a freckle. This is actually a tumor. Because this tumor is so similar in appearance to a benign freckle or mole, many people do not mention it to a doctor until they notice pain or a sudden suspicious growth of the mole. Unfortunately, these symptoms may be signs that the cancer has spread or moved deeper into the tissues beneath the skin’s surface. Medical professionals have devised a four-point system for distinguishing regular moles from cancerous lesions. Skin cancer tumors are usually asymmetric, or much more so than moles. They also have hard-to-define borders which tend to blend into the surrounding skin. Their color is uneven and often contains various colors, unlike a standard mole with which has uniform color. Also, a tumor will grow in diameter in sudden spurts until it is about six millimeters across. Essentially, a patient should contact a doctor if any mole or freckle seems suspicious or different to him or her.
Types of Skin Cancer
The three types of skin cancer are melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Melanoma is the least common but also the most deadly form of this cancer. It is responsible for about 75% of the skin cancer deaths each year. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common and the most easily treated. Treating skin cancer is easiest when it is detected early. Often, surgeons can excise a tumor completely and save patients the trouble of more aggressive treatments that involve radiation or chemotherapy. When the cancer spreads to the tissues beneath the skin, survival rates go down. If you're ever in doubt about a mole on your skin, it's smart to have it checked out, sooner rather than later.