THERE are hundreds of different types of cancers and it remains one of the biggest killers.
The most deadly form is lung cancer, followed by bowel, prostate and then breast.
These four cancers account for nearly half, 45 per cent, of overall deaths from cancer.
In the UK, around 13,300 people a year are diagnosed with skin cancer every year, according to Cancer Research.
And spotting the early signs of the disease could make all the difference when it comes to survival.
Experts recommend that those individuals perform regular checks of their skin to spot for potential signs of the disease returning, or new melanomas appearing.
What is skin cancer?
Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells.
This growth can occur when damage is caused to skin cells – most often caused by UV radiation from sunshine or tanning beds.
This damage can triggers mutations, or genetic defects, that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumours.
How common is skin cancer?
Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer, and is the fifth most common in the UK.
Over the last ten years malignant melanoma frequency rates have increased by almost half in the UK – with this increase being larger in males (around three-fifths) than females (over a third).
In 2013, there were around 14,500 new cases of malignant melanoma in the UK – around 40 every day.
What are the signs and symtpoms?
- A spot or sore
- A lump
- Red patches on your skin
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What are the risk factors?
- Age, the older you are, the more likely you are to develop non melanoma skin cancer.
- Previous skin cancer
- Family history of skin cancer
- Sun exposure
- Certain skin conditions, such as solar keratosis, xeroderma pigmentosum, and those undergoing treatment for Psoriasis or eczema.
- Other risks include, those with a weakened immune system or past radiation exposure
Is it caused by sunburn?
Sunburn does not cause skin cancer but it6 increases your chances of developing the disease.
Getting sunburnt just five times can increase your chance of contracting skin cancer by 80 per cent.
Cancer Research UK says: “Too much ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or sunbeds is the main cause of skin cancer.
“In the UK almost 9 in 10 cases of melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, could be prevented through enjoying the sun safely and avoiding using sunbeds.”
Sunburn is a sign the DNA in your skin cells has been damaged, caused by UV radiation.
They say: “Getting sunburn, just once every 2 years, can triple your risk of melanoma skin cancer.
“Sunburn doesn’t have to be raw, peeling or blistering.
“If your skin has gone pink or red in the sun, it’s sunburnt.
“For people with darker skin, it may just feel irritated, tender or itchy.”
You can also burn on cool days, as you can’t feel UV rays.
Types of skin cancer
Melanoma can appear anywhere on the body, but is most common on the back, legs, arms and face.
Melanomas can spread to other organs in the body – which makes them more deadly.
What does melanoma look like?
The most common indication of melanoma is the appearance of a new mole or a change in an existing mole.
Watch out for moles that are:
- Getting bigger
- Changing shape
- Changing colour
- Bleeding or getting crusty
- Itchy or painful
Basal cell cancers
Basal cell cancer (BCC) is sometimes referred to as a rodent ulcer.
The disease affects the outermost layers of cells in the skin.
Signs of BCCs, include a skin growth that:
- Looks smooth and pearly
- Seems waxy
- Looks like a firm, red lump
- Sometimes bleeds
- Develops a scab or crust
- Never completely heals
- Is itchy
- Looks like a flat red spot and is scaly and crusty
- Develops into a painless ulcer
The ABC’s of Skin Cancer (source: American Cancer Society)
Asymmetry: One half of the mole doesn’t match the other
Border irregularity: The edges of the mole are irregular or blurred
Colour: The colour of the mole is not the same all over
Diameter: The mole is larger than about ¼ inch
Around 75 per cent of all skin cancers are BCCs, which are typically slow-growing and almost never spread to other parts of the body.
If treated at an early stage, this form of skin cancer is usually completely cured.
If they do become more aggressive, BCCs may spread into the deeper layers of the skin and into the bones – which can make treating it more difficult.
Squamous cell carcinoma
Another form of non-melanoma, skin cancer, is squamous cell carcinoma.
This is a cancer of the keratinocyte cells which are in the outer layer of the skin.
These cells are mainly found on the face, neck, bald scalps, arms, backs of hands and lower legs.
It is the second most common type of skin cancer and may:
- Appear scaly
- Have a hard, crusty cap
- Raised skin
- Tender to touch
- Bleed sometimes
Can the disease be treated?
When found early, skin cancer can often be treated successfully.
How skin cancer is treated depends on a few factors.
Types of treatment can depend on the type of skin cancer, how far it’s spread, where the cancer is and what stage it’s at.
The main treatment for skin cancer is surgery to remove it from the affected area.
Usually, the surgery carried out is minor and carried out under local anaesthetic.
Some may be given a skin graft depending on where the cancer is – or if it covers a larger area.
However, types of surgery do vary, and depend on where the cancer is and how big it is.
When surgery cannot be used, other treatments include: radiotherapy, immunotherapy and chemotherapy cream.
For more information visit: cancerresearchuk.org