Skin cancer is actually a term used for a whole group of malignant skin diseases. It includes several basic types of tumors that significantly differ in their characteristics and prognosis.
Malignant skin tumors
Basal cell carcinoma is considered as semi-malignant. This designation means that the tumor grows aggressively and actively destroys neighboring tissues, but it practically does not form metastases. The tumor is common in older people on the face and other areas that are chronically exposed to sunrays. It looks an irregular lesion that may have appearance similar to an ulcer. It does not disappear and gradually grows. Any adjacent anatomical structures including bones are destroyed. The tumor can be easily treated by local surgery. However, the diagnosis and intervention should be performed as soon as possible. The faster the tumor is removed; the better is the resulting cosmetic defect. More information can be found in related article.
Squamous cell carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma should be considered as classical malignant tumor. It grows aggressively and it is also able to form local distant metastases. On the other hand, it is usually quickly diagnosed and removed before the metastatic spread.
Melanoma is quite different compared to previous cancers. It is not based on normal skin cells, but on pigment cells called melanocytes. These cells are found throughout the surface of our skin and they produce pigment melanin giving the skin its characteristic color. However, the melanocytes also occur in the eye iris and even in the meninges. Melanoma is a deadly cancer that grows fast and it is relatively early able to form relatively distant metastases. Even years after a seemingly successful removal of the primary tumor lesion, a distant metastasis can occur. Therefore, it is vital to diagnose and remove a melanoma as soon as possible. Once the tumor has created metastases, it is virtually impossible to stop him. Modern ways of therapy are on the way, but they can “only” prolong the survival time, but do not cure the patient.
The formation of these tumors is caused by both genetics and outer factors. The risk increases with age and in people with positive family history of a skin tumor. Both basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma occur in body parts chronically exposed to sunrays (face, head, neck and hands). Melanoma is caused by ultraviolet irradiation of the skin. Ultraviolet rays are part of solar radiation and strong dose of ultraviolet radiation is absorbed during tanning.
All the above forms of skin cancers are quite typical for a rare hereditary disease known as the xeroderma pigmentosum.
Any suspected skin lesion should be examined by a dermatologist including the dermatoscopy. Dermatoscope is a magnifying device with a source of high-quality light that significantly improves the chance of right diagnosis. In case of a suspected tumor, it is wise to perform its total surgical excision and histological examination of the obtained tissue.
Moderate and reasonable exposure to sunlight is essential. Sunlight is important for proper production of vitamin D, but excessive sunbathing or even tanning significantly increases the risk of skin cancer. When on vacation in tropic or subtropics, it is necessary to avoid burns due to direct sun light and use protective sun creams. Most at risk are people with less amount of protective skin pigment, i.e. people with blond and red hair. Tanning should be considered harmful and absolutely avoided in children.
The only effective curative solution is local surgical intervention with removal of the tumor tissue. Information about particular therapeutic options can be found in related texts.