Prevent skin cancer by self examination!


Our skin plays the major role in protecting of our body against heat, light, infection, and injury. It also stores water, fat, and vitamin D. The skin has two main layers and several kinds of cells. The top layer of skin is called the epidermis. It contains three kinds of cells: squamous cells, basal cells and cells called melanocytes, which give our skin its color. If cancer cells found in the epidermis of skin, it is known as skin cancer.


Types of skin cancer
There are two most common kinds of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Basal cell carcinoma is a slow-growing cancer that seldom spreads to other parts of the body. Squamous cell carcinoma also rarely spreads, but it does so more often than basal cell carcinoma. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are sometimes called non-melanoma skin cancer. There is another common type of skin cancer called Melanoma. It begins in the melanocytes. Of the many different types of melanoma, most are seen in the skin including nail beds, soles of the feet, and scalp. However, it can also be found in the eye, anal canal, rectum, and vagina.


Signs and symptoms
Skin cancer can look in different ways. The most common sign of skin cancer is a change on the skin, such as a growth or a sore that will not heal. Sometime there may be a small lump. This lump can be smooth, shiny and waxy looking, or it can be red or reddish brown. Skin cancer may also appear as a flat red spot that is rough or scaly. Not all changes in your skin are cancer, but one should consult the doctor if any noticeable changes occur in its skin.


Diagnosis and treatment
The average cure rate when detected and treated in the early stages is 95 percent. It is much higher than other diseases. The goal of treatment of skin cancer is to remove all of the cancer, reduce the chance of recurrence, preserve healthy skin tissue, and minimise scarring after surgery. Treatment for skin cancer varies according to the type, location, extent, aggressiveness of the cancer, and the patient’s general health. Treatment for skin cancer usually involves some type of surgery. In some cases, radiation therapy or chemotherapy or a combination of these methods is used.


Tips to prevent skin cancer
Firstly, we can minimise the exposure to the sun at midday. We should apply sunscreen with at least a SPF (sun protecting factor)-15 or higher, to all areas of the body which are exposed to the sun even on cloudy days in every two hours and reapply after swimming or perspiring. Again we can reduce the risk by wearing such cloths that covers our body and shades our face. Avoiding exposure to UV (ultra violet) radiation from sunlamps or tanning parlors also trim down the risk. We can protect our children by keeping them from excessive sun exposure when the sun is strongest, and apply sunscreen liberally and frequently to children 6 months of age and older. We should not use sunscreen on children under 6 months of age. Older children need to be cautioned about sun exposure, as they become more independent. It is important, particularly in high sun exposure parts of the world, to develop the habit of covering up the skin with clothing, a hat, and sunscreen whenever they go outdoors and may be exposed to large amounts of sunlight. Wrap-around sunglasses with at least 99 percent UV absorption provide the best protection for the eyes and the skin area around the eyes. High exposure to chemicals like arsenic, silicosis should be avoided also.


Skin cancer is highly curable when detected early and the key to early detection is regular self-examinations of our skin. Everyone, not only those with an increased risk of developing skin cancer, should perform regular skin examinations. The best time to do a skin self-exam is after a shower or bath. We have to check our skin in a well-lighted room using a full-length mirror and a hand-held mirror. For this purpose we have known well about our birthmarks, moles, blemishes and freckles and what they usually look and feel like. Check for anything new, especially a change in size, shape, texture or color. Also notice any area of scaliness, itching, bleeding, tenderness or pain. The examiner should check from head to toe and should not forget the back, scalp, genital area, and between the buttocks. People who have been treated for skin cancer have a higher-than-average risk of developing a new cancer elsewhere on the skin. That is why it is so important for them to continue to examine themselves regularly.