Skin Cancer

More people are diagnosed with skin cancer every year than any other cancer. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, more than 2 million people are diagnosed with 3.5 million skin cancers each year. Skin cancer develops in the epidermis due to overexposure to ultraviolet radiation. Sunlight and tanning beds are sources of ultraviolet radiation that are known to cause skin cancer.

The face, scalp, chest, and arms, along with other areas of skin frequently exposed to the sun, are affected most often. However, skin cancer can also affect areas often hidden from exposure such as palms and between toes.

Risk factors besides overexposure to sunlight and tanning beds include having fair skin, a family history of skin cancer and a history of sunburns. Abnormal or multiple moles may indicate an increased risk for skin cancer.

There are three types of skin cancer including, basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Basal cell and squamous cell are most often diagnosed and easily treatable if detected in early stages of the disease. Melanoma accounts for nearly 75 percent of all skin cancer deaths.

Basal cell carcinoma is typically found on the face or scalp and other areas often exposed to excessive sunlight. Signs include nodules or bumps that appear waxy or pearly, or a scar-like lesion, usually brown.

Squamous cell carcinoma also develops in areas with direct exposure to sunlight. A hard red bump or flat lesion with a crusty growth may indicate squamous cell.

Melanoma occurs in areas of the body exposed to sunlight in addition to areas usually protected from exposure. Men are more prone to developing melanoma on the head and trunk, while women are most often affected on the lower legs. People with darker complexions may develop cancer underneath nails or even on the soles of feet.

Treatment may include freezing small lesions and precancerous growths with liquid nitrogen. Larger areas of skin cancer are typically surgically removed. Surgical treatments may include Mohs surgery and excisional surgery. Laser therapy, radiation therapy and biological therapy may also be employed to remove cancerous tissue.

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