Cancers of the skin are the most common types of cancer that afflict people. A shocking one in five people in the United States will have a skin cancer diagnosis, and for Caucasians, the chances are a sobering one in three people will face skin cancer.
Fortunately, most of these brushes with cancer are limited to the early removal of cancerous cells from skin tissue before the disease has a chance to spread. Mortality is low for people who develop skin cancer, but sometimes the skin and tissue removal can cause disfigurement. In such a situation, a skin cancer patient will be referred to a plastic surgeon for reconstruction. Sometimes, a dermatologist will consult with a plastic surgeon from the beginning as a skin cancer removal is planned in order create an outcome that is healthy and aesthetically acceptable.
The cause of the overwhelming amount of skin cancers is exposure to the sun. Protecting yourself and your children from sunburns is crucial to maintaining the health of your skin. Preventing children from getting sunburns is particularly important because a bad blistering burn in childhood can lead to skin cancer years later. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, your chance of developing a cancer of the skin doubles if you have had five or more sunburns.
Three primary categories of skin cancer exist. Each one affects a different type of cell within the tissues of the skin.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal Cell Carcinoma is by far the most common type of skin cancer. This type of skin cancer occurs so frequently, that many cancer registries forgo collecting the case data because it would be overwhelming and it is not a particularly deadly form of skin disease. Still, the medical community estimates that about one million new cases of basal cell carcinoma are diagnosed in the United States every year.
This disease is characterized by cancer cells and tumor growth within the basal cells in the deepest layer of the epidermis. If detected and removed early, basal cell carcinoma poses little threat to patients, who generally recover easily although they will continue to have their skin monitored for new problems.
Severe disease and even death can result if basal cell carcinoma is undetected or untreated. Although it does not tend to spread to the rest of the body, it is possible if left uncontrolled.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
The second most common type of skin cancer is squamous cell carcinoma, which is detected in roughly 250,000 people in the United States every year. When this cancer develops, it is the squamous cells within the upper layer of the skin that is afflicted with cancer. Like basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma has a high treatment success rate when diagnosed early.
Melanoma is the bad word of skin cancer. It is the most malignant form with the ability to spread aggressively through the body and even cause death. Melanoma strikes the melanocyte cells that produce the pigment melanin in the skin. Fortunately, it is not as widespread as the other two types of skin cancer. Of the estimated 60,000 cases of melanoma in the United States every year, many of them are treated successfully by removal of the diseased cells. However, early detection is critical with melanoma before it has a chance to reach the lymphatic system and spread throughout the body.
Along with damage from the sun, using a tanning bed has also been linked to skin cancer, even melanoma.
Skin Reconstruction After Cancer
Tremendous progress has been made in the plastic surgeon community to develop surgical techniques to help people who have been disfigured by diseases like skin cancer. When removal entails more than a small patch of skin or the skin cancer is on the face or other visible area, a plastic surgeon will repair the skin to produce a functional and more pleasing appearance.