The skin, the largest and most versatile organ of the human body, protects the inner body from bacteria and injury. Because of its considerable size and location, the skin is highly vulnerable to a variety of diseases and disorders, some of which may require dermatologic surgery. Fortunately, most skin surgeries can be performed in a physician’s office with minimal discomfort or risk
What Are Signs Of Skin Problems?
Self-examination of the skin should be undertaken regularly to determine if any changes have occurred. Moles which change in size, color, shape or elevation should be brought to the attention of a physician. Persistent itching, oozing, crusting or bleeding or a lesion are warning signs that may indicate the presence of cancer. Immediate attention to these significant changes may prevent more serious complications later.
Are Skin Cancers Common?
Skin cancer is the most comon of all cancers. It is estimated that it will be diagnosed to approximately 500,000 Americans this year. According to medical experts, the principal cause of skin cancer is over-exposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun.
What Are The Different Types Of Skin Cancer?
There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma; squamous cell carcinoma; and malignant melanoma.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
The second most common skin cancer found in Caucasians is squamous cell carcinoma which usually presents itself as red, scaly or ulcerated patches. It is more frequently seen in fair-skinned people with sun-damaged skin. This cancer, left untreated, will increase in size, developing eventually into larger masses which can metastasize or spread.
The least common but most virulent of all skin cancers is malignant melanoma, the cause of death each year of over five thousand people. Moles, in particular, should be watched for signs of change. Dark-skinned as well as light-skinned people are susceptible and it is believed that heredity may play a role. Referred to as the ABCD’s of self-examination, they include asymmetric or irregular lesions rather than round, even ones; border irregularities with lesions that have notched, jagged or scalloped edges; color variegation showing different shades of tan, brown and black with perhaps dashes of red, white and blue; and a diameter greater than one-fourth inch.
How Are Skin Cancers Treated?
The physician must determine appropriate treatment based on the condition or the needs of the individual patient. There are several treatments of choice including surgical removal of the growth, curettage and electro-desiccation in which cancerous tissue is scraped away and the surrounding area cauterized, cryosurgery in which tissue is destroyed by freezing with liquid nitrogen, and radiation or x-ray therapy.