Skin cancer is a very common skin pathology that is usually caused by excessive exposure to the sun in an individual with a certain predisposition. Dr. Serra Guillén, expert in Dermatology, talks about the diagnosis of skin cancer and its prevention.
Types of skin cancer
Skin cancer is classified into two main groups:
- Melanoma: it can produce metastasis and consequently the death of the patient.
- Non-melanoma skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma and epidemoid carcinoma, which are more frequent than melanoma but less aggressive.
There are many risk factors for the development of skin cancer, the main one being excessive and inordinate exposure to the sun, especially to ultraviolet radiation, which produces mutations in the skin cells. Other factors include fair skin type, the presence of many moles, childhood sunburns, and personal and family history of skin cancer.
Symptoms or signs of skin cancer
Melanoma usually manifests as a spot on the skin, usually brown, but it can be of various colors, asymmetrical, with irregular borders, heterogeneous, and showing recent changes. Basal cell carcinoma manifests as a reddish plaque or patch that may be smooth or shiny, a few millimeters in size, which usually ulcerates and bleeds. Squamous cell carcinoma is a fast-growing mass-like tumor that ulcerates and may have a crust on the surface.
How skin cancer is diagnosed
Most skin cancers are diagnosed by conventional examination by the dermatologist, based on the characteristics usually exhibited by these malignant tumors. Sometimes dermoscopy is required, a type of magnifying glass with a special light that reveals certain characteristics of the tumors that cannot be seen with a simple ocular examination. In any case, the definitive diagnosis is provided by microscopic examination, either of a part of the lesion, which is called a biopsy, or of the entire lesion after removal.
Treatment for skin cancer
When melanoma has not spread, it is treated by surgery, a process that cures most cases. If, on the other hand, the melanoma has spread to other organs, the treatment applied is chemotherapy.
For basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma, surgery, in most cases, is curative. There are also a number of conservative treatments, especially for basal cell carcinoma, which do not leave scars, including photodynamic therapy and imiquimod.
How to prevent skin cancer
To prevent the development of skin cancer, it is necessary to avoid unregulated sun exposure, avoid sunburns, especially in children and fair-skinned people. It is very important to use sun protection creams, as well as to take physical measures such as hats, clothing or umbrellas.
Regular check-ups with a dermatologist are also important, who will check moles periodically for early diagnosis. Any skin lesion that changes, bleeds or evolves differently from the rest of the moles can also be consulted with the dermatologist. To prevent squamous cell carcinoma it is necessary to treat precursor lesions called actinic keratoses, which appear on skin chronically exposed to the sun in the form of red crusts.