One of the most prevalent cases of cancer is skin cancer. In the US alone it is estimated that 1 million citizens are affected with this kind of disease. It is important that we are aware of how skin cancer develops and how it can be prevented to avoid its fatal consequences.
In order to understand how skin cancer develops, one should first have an idea on the parts of the skin and how they function.
The skin is composed of two layers – the outermost part is called the epidermis while the innermost part is called the dermis. The epidermis is composed of flat cells called squamos cells. Under them are round cells referred to as basal cells. There are also the melanocytes cells which form the color of the skin and are found in the lower portion of the skin’s epidermis.
Just underneath the epidermis is the dermis containing lymph and blood vessels as well as glands. Some of these produce sweat that helps the body to cool down. Some glands also produce sebum, an oily material which helps the skin to remain moisturized. Both sweat and sebum are able to reach the skin’s surface by going through pores.
Just like in any part of the body, cells are considered as the skin’s basic units. Skin cells expand and multiply into new cells. Skin cells also die, leaving new cells to further develop.
However, the process can be hampered when old cells refuse to die, or when new cells develop even when the skin does not require them. The development of surplus skin cells can result to a mass of tissue which is called as tumor. Tumors may be non-cancerous or they may be cancerous. The name of skin cancers refer to the type of cells in which they grow.
There are various types of skin cancer although the three most prevalent are melanoma, squamous cell cancer, and basal cell carcinoma.
Melanoma results from the uncontrolled increase in melanocytes or pigment cells. This type of skin cancer is usually common among male Caucasians especially those who live in sunny climates. It is estimated that 50,000 people worldwide die from Melanoma every year.
Squamous cell cancer may result from too much x-ray exposure, chemical exposure, prolonged exposure to ultraviolet radiation, and old age. It usually affects people who are aged 50 and over. Those who have inflamed or injured skin and who are regularly exposed to the sun have high risks of getting this type of skin cancer.
The most common type of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma usually is found on the neck and head. While it is not fatal, basal cell carcinoma can disfigure one’s appearance. It is estimated that 30% of Caucasians are affected by this type of skin cancer.
Like in most cases of cancer, skin cancer can be treated through chemo and immuno therapy, and radiation therapy.