Skin Cancers

Skin cancers are one of the commonest types of cancers. Risk factors for developing skin cancers are excessive ultraviolet light exposure( from sun exposure or use of tanning beds), history of sunburns and being on long term immunosuppressive medications. Fair-skinned individuals are also at higher risk of developing skin cancers compared to Asians and Africans.

There are 3 main types of skin cancers

1. Basal cell carcinoma
This is the most common but least dangerous type of skin cancer. It tends to occur on the face, and usually appears as a smooth, pearly bump with fine blood vessels on top. It may sometimes ulcerate.

2. Squamous cell carcinoma
This is less common but more aggressive than basal cell carcinoma. It usually appears on the face, arms and ears, as a reddish patch or a red lump with crust on top. It can be mistaken for psoriasis, eczema or skin infection.

3. Melanoma
This is the least common but most aggressive type of skin cancer. It has the risk of spreading internally if it is not diagnosed and removed at an early stage. It tends to appear as a mole, brown spot, black spot or freckle which changes in colour, size and shape over months. A rare form of melanoma can affect the nails. In such cases, a black or brown band appears on the nail and expands over time.

An experienced dermatologist can usually diagnose skin cancer by careful skin examination. Sometimes, a skin biopsy( taking a small sample of the skin growth) may be required, so that the tissue can be sent for microscopic examination to confirm the diagnosis of skin cancer.

Making an early diagnosis is crucial as most skin cancers can be easily treated and cured if they are at an early stage.

Skin cancers are usually removed by surgery. For some very early skin cancers, or precancerous skin growths, non-surgical treatments can be effective too. These non-surgical methods include: cryotherapy( liquid nitrogen), special creams, and photodynamic therapy.