Skin cancer (skin melanomas) – C43, C44
Statistics suggest that skin cancer, especially melanoma, has increased in the last 30 years up to four times. Skin cancer accounts for one fourth of all cancer cases. In the USA most skin cancers occur in young women. This may be due to the growing popularity of sun tanning or excess use of sun beds.
About the disease
Skin cancer includes many types of skin tumors. Some are benign and represent more of a cosmetic problem. The most common malignant skin cancers are those affecting the upper dermis – basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and the most dangerous and well-known melanoma. Basal cell carcinoma damages the site of its origin and its surroundings; whereas squamous cell carcinoma forms metastases in distant organs, thus its early detection is very important. A typical symptom of melanoma is an inconspicuous spot formed on the skin or within a mole; it usually metastasizes into other parts of the skin, lymph nodes, brain, lungs or liver.
Experts argue that the increasing number of skin cancers is associated with the growth of tourism and improved economic status enabling travel to sunny countries, but also with a perpetual trend of tanning “forcing” people to excessive and unprotected sun exposure or the use of sun beds. Clearly, the cause of skin cancer is sunlight, particularly UVB rays that damage DNA of skin cells inducing their uncontrolled multiplication and division. A high-risk sun exposure is in people with fair or sensitive skin and a large number of pigmented moles, also in people who often get sunburnt, especially at a young age below 18 when the skin is the most sensitive. Another factor is a genetic predisposition, and the risk in people with a history of skin cancer is almost 10 times higher. The contribution of a weak immune system has not been ruled out either.
Signs and symptoms
The most common signs indicating a potential tumor growth are changes to colour (darker), shape (fuzzy border, asymmetry, rough surface) or the mole size. A sudden detection of a spot or its bleeding should result in immediate visit to a dermatologist.
Preventing skin cancer
Melanomas and other tumors can be very dangerous, so any changes to the skin and other symptoms should not be overlooked. For its visible signs cancer can be revealed in time and its treatment initiated. The best defence is prevention. The protection from effects of sunlight including clothes or applying products with UV factor is important (timely and adequate amount, its re-application in 2-3 hours, selecting appropriate UV factor). Small children are better to avoid sunlight completely. It is recommended to avoid direct sun between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. since at this time the impact of UVB radiation is less filtered by the atmosphere.
Impact of the immune system on skin cancer
The skin is an organ daily exposed to a great burden of adverse effects, such as fabric softeners in clothes, perfumes, cosmetic lotions or sun rays. Although people do not realise it, the skin needs to be protected similarly to the internal organs. Immune system is the main factor protecting the skin from diseases. It may seem that boosting immunity is intended for only the inner organs, but the opposite is true. A strong immune system fights even the potential onset of skin spots and moles. In adequately resistant immunity skin abnormalities are usually just a cosmetic flaw or a sign of detoxification. If prevention is underestimated after all and skin cancer develops, enhancing the immune system is crucial for successful treatment outcomes.