Skin Cancer And Your Plastic Surgeon
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer. While skin cancers can be found on any part of the body, about 80 percent appear on the face, head, or neck, where they can be disfiguring as well as dangerous.
The following information will help to educate you about the different types of skin cancer, their causes, and preventive measures you can take; to help you know when to consult a doctor; and to explain the role of the plastic surgeon in the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer and other skin growths.
Who Gets Skin Cancer…and Why?
The primary cause of skin cancer is ultraviolet radiation -most often from the sun, but also from artificial sources like sunlamps and tanning booths. In fact, researchers believe that our quest for the perfect tan, an increase in outdoor activities, and perhaps the thinning of the earth’s protective ozone layer are behind the alarming rise we’re now seeing in skin cancers.
Anyone can get skin cancer-no matter what your skin type, race or age, no matter where you live or what you do. But your risk is greater if…
- Your skin is fair and freckles easily.
- You have light-coloured hair and eyes.
- You have a large number of moles, or moles of unusual size or shape.
- You have a family history of skin cancer or a personal history of blistering sunburn.
- You spend a lot of time working or playing outdoors.
- You live closer to the equator, at a higher altitude, or in any place that gets intense, year-round sunshine.
- You received therapeutic radiation treatments for adolescent acne.
Types of Skin Cancer
By far the most common type of skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma (BCC). Fortunately, it’s also the least dangerous kind–it tends to grow slowly, and rarely spreads beyond its original site. Though basal cell carcinoma is seldom life-threatening, if left untreated it can grow deep beneath the skin and into the underlying tissue and bone, causing serious damage (particularly if it’s located near the eye).
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the next most common kind of skin cancer, frequently appearing on the lips, face, or ears. It sometimes spreads to distant sites, including lymph nodes and internal organs. Squamous cell carcinoma can become life threatening if it’s not treated.
A third form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma, is less common, but its incidence is increasing rapidly, Malignant melanoma is also one of the most dangerous types of skin cancer. If discovered early enough, it can be completely cured. If it’s not treated quickly, however, malignant melanoma may spread throughout the body and is often deadly.