Skin cancer is a malignant tumor that develops from the cells of the epidermis. It is primarily due to the consistent and repetitive sun exposure – with UVB radiation considered the most dangerous – although several hereditary factors are also associated with its development.
Even though in 80% of the cases skin cancer occurs on the face, hands and neck, i.e. in areas most exposed to sunlight, it can appear in any part of the body.
Skin cancer can occur at any age, with a higher frequency during the twenty-year interval between the ages of 40 and 60. Still, in the past few years, there has been an increase on skin cancer cases in younger people as well. As the two most important factors for its development are the skin type and sun-exposure, people with fair skin color, freckles, moles and family history of skin cancer, as well as those who are often exposed to the sun or have received radiation treatment, are more likely to develop melanoma.
The most common type is Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC). This neoplasm is derived from cells of the basal layer of the epidermis and is considered as the least dangerous form of skin cancer. Although Basal Cell Carcinoma develops slowly and rarely metastasizes, it must be immediately treated because if its removal is delayed it causes tissue destruction in depth, often reaching the bone. An important risk factor for the occurrence of this type of cancer is the chronic and prolonged sun-exposure.
There are various forms of Basal Cell Carcinoma, such as the following:
The Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) of the skin is a malignant tumor derived from the keratinocytes of the epidermis or the hair, glands and nails. Unlike Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC), it carries a greater risk of metastasis, which, however, results in death in only a small proportion of patients. It presents as a red hard nodule or ulceration or as a scaly lesion which may bleed or be covered with scab. Metastases of Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) are observed at the local lymph nodes and, less often, in neglected (untreated) cases, in distant organs.
The treatment options available to skin cancer are:
The best precaution for people at risk is to avoid excessive sun-exposure and use appropriate protective clothing and sunscreen creams.
Diagnosis of skin cancer may be made by the removal of a part or the entire dermal (skin) lesion and the microscopic examination of the cells (biopsy). Histology forms the basis for the diagnosis and treatment of the cancer.
Moreover, techniques aiding skin cancer diagnosis are Dermoscopy and Mole Mapping, where the specific characteristics of the Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) or Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) are illustrated.