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About Skin Cancer
Welcome to the Skin Cancer Health Channel by eMedTV. Skin cancer is a disease in which cancer cells form in the tissues of the skin. The disease begins in the epidermis (outer layer of skin), which is made up of three kinds of cells: squamous cells, basal cells, and melanocytes. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Although some types of skin cancer are curable, people who have had skin cancer are at a higher-than-average risk of developing another skin cancer.
This article will discuss the two most common types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. These types of skin cancer are also called nonmelanoma skin cancer.
What Causes Skin Cancer?
The main cause of nonmelanoma skin cancer is ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or artificial sources such as sunlamps or tanning booths.
A risk factor is a thing or condition that increases the chances of developing a health condition.
Risk factors for skin cancer include:
  • Ultraviolet radiation
  • Fair complexion (blond or red hair, fair skin, green or blue eyes, history of freckling)
  • Scars or burns on the skin
  • Infection with certain human papillomavirus
  • Exposure to arsenic at work
  • Chronic skin inflammation or skin ulcers
  • Radiation therapy
  • Medical conditions or drugs that suppress the immune system (immunosuppressants)
  • Personal history of one or more skin cancers
  • Family history of skin cancer
  • Diseases that make the skin sensitive to the sun, such as xeroderma pigmentosum, albinism, and basal cell nevus syndrome.
What Are the Signs of Skin Cancer?
A change on the skin is the most common sign of skin cancer. This change may be a new growth, a sore that doesn't heal, or a change in an old growth. Not all skin cancers look the same. Sometimes skin cancer is painful, but more commonly pain is not a sign of skin cancer.
How Is Skin Cancer Treated?
Skin cancer treatment options include surgery, topical chemotherapy, photodynamic therapy, and radiation therapy.
Treatment decisions involving skin cancer are based on factors such as:
  • The type of skin cancer
  • The stage of the disease
  • The size and place of the growth
  • The patient's general health and medical history.
How Can Skin Cancer Be Prevented?
The first step in skin cancer prevention is to reduce the risk of cancer caused by exposure to UV rays. Avoid exposure to the midday sun whenever possible. If you must be outside, wear long sleeves, long pants, and a hat with a wide brim. Protect your skin by using sunscreen; many doctors believe that sunscreens may help prevent skin cancer. Sunscreens with an SPF of 30 or higher provide the most protection against sunburn.
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