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Skin cancer symptoms

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The most common type of cancer in the world is skin cancer. Non-melanoma skin cancer is a group of cancers which slowly develop in the upper layers of the skin. Non-melanoma distinguishes the more common kind of skin cancer from the less common skin cancer known as melanoma, this spreads faster in the body.

The first noticeable side effects of having non-melanoma skin cancer is the appearance of a lump or patch on the skin which fails heal after a few weeks. In the majority of cases cancerous lumps are firm and red while cancerous patches are normally flat and scaly. It’s vital you see your GP if any skin abnormality that you have noticed hasn’t healed after weeks.

Types of non-melanoma skin cancer

Non-melanoma skin cancers commonly develop in the outermost layer of the skin, also known as a epidermis. The two most common types of non-melanoma cancer and they are:

• squamous cell carcinoma – this starts in the cells lining the top of the epidermis and accounts for roughly 20% of skin cancers

• basal cell carcinoma – this starts on the cell lining the bottom of the epidermis and accounts for roughly 75% the skin cancers

Why does it occur?

The exact causes are unknown but it’s thought it is linked with overexposure to ultraviolet light (UV). UV light comes from the sand as well as artificial sunbeds and sunlamps.

There are other factors which can increase your chances of developing non-melanoma skin cancer, such as:

• a family history of the condition

• pale skin which burns easily

• a large number of moles or frecklesskin cancer

Who is affected?

Non-melanoma skin cancer is the most common cancer in the world, seeing 100,000 new cases every year in the UK. This skin cancer affects slightly more men than women.

Diagnosis

Visit your GP and they can examine your skin for signs of skin cancer. You may be referred to a skin specialist known as a dermatologist, or a plastic surgeon if they are unsure or suspect skin cancer. A biopsy will be carried out if they suspect skin cancer, this is the process which requires them to remove part of the affected skin. This is then studied under a microscope to determine if it is cancer or not.

Treatment

Surgery is the main treatment of non-melanoma skin cancer, this involves removing the cancerous tumour and the surrounding skin. There are many other treatments too which include cryotherapy, radiotherapy, creams and treatment known as PDT (photodynamic therapy). Treatment is generally successful as unlike other cancers there is a considerably low risk of the cancer spreading to other parts of the body. The treatment for basal cell carcinoma is completely successful in approximately 90% of all cases, plus between 70 and 90% of people with squamous cell carcinoma will be completely cured.

Complications

If you’ve previously had non-melanoma skin cancer there may be a chance the condition may return, the chances of this happening are increased if your previous cancer was widespread and severe.

If there is a significant risk of your non-melanoma skin cancer returning, you will require regular check-ups to monitor your health.

Prevention

Non-melanoma skin cancer is not always preventable, you can reduce your chances of developing the condition significantly by avoiding overexposure to UV light. You can protect yourself from sun damage by using sunscreen, sunbeds and sunlamps should be avoided. Always remember to check your skin regularly for signs of skin cancer, as early diagnosis will increase your chances of a successful treatment.

 

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