An Overview of Skin Cancer – Causes and Risk Factors

Increased use of fertilizers in crop cultivation and increased pollution is increasing the risk of many dreadful diseases. One such disease which is taking many lives every year is cancer. There are various types of cancer depending on the organ or the body part being affected such as lung cancer, skin cancer, bone cancer etc.

Let us see about skin cancer, causes and risk factors.

Skin Cancer

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What is Skin Cancer?

Abnormal growth and multiplication of skin cells results in development of tumors. Tumors which turn to be malignant are considered as cancerous. There are three types of skin cancers basing on the type of cell being invaded.

  • Basal cell carcinoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Melanoma.

Of the three malignant cancers malignant melanoma that spreads to other parts of the body very easily is highly dangerous and may become fatal if left untreated.

Basal cell carcinoma

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Squamous cell carcinoma

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Melanoma vs normal mole

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Causes of Skin Cancer

Skin being the highly exposed part of the body it is hard to say that skin cancer develops due to one specific cause. Skin cancer can develop due to multiple causes such as

  1. Increased exposure to UV rays

    Sun rays contain powerful ultraviolet rays which are to a great extent filtered by the ozone layer. But, due to depletion of ozone layers powerful UV rays are reaching the earth and are the major cause for skin cancers in majority of people. Increased exposure to UV lamps used in tanning salons also increases the risk for tumor growth in skin.

  2. Increased exposure to arsenic containing chemicals

    Farmers who use increased amounts of arsenic containing pesticides, carpenters using wood preservatives and those who are highly exposed to radium have increased chances of developing tumors underneath the skin.

  3. Certain types of medical treatments that suppress the immune system

    Treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy that aim at treating abnormal growth of cells can result in development of cancer of the skin due to weak immune system. In certain other cases where immune system is intentionally suppressed as seen in bone marrow transplantation can also cause skin cancer.

Risk factors of Skin Cancer

1.    People with low melanin content i.e. those who have fair skin, blond hair, freckles, green or blue eyes are at increased risk of skin cancers. Generally, the pigment melanin present in skin offers protection to the skin from outside agents.

2.    Presence of either more number of moles or presence large sized moles at the time of birth.

3.    Skin disorders such as albinism and xeroderma pigmentosum that develop due to abnormalities in the formation of melanin pigment.

4.    Hereditary factors.

5.    Skin cancers keep recurring after three years of complete treatment. Hence, those with history of skin cancer are at high risk than others.

6.    HIV that weakens the immune system causes Kaposis sarcoma a type of cancer affecting skin.

7.    People who work in sun for longer duration every day.

8.    Increased exposure to sun in early days of life.

9.    Presence of more number of scars.

10.    Appearance of more number of new moles or change in shape of the existing moles.

11.    Compared to women men are at high risk of developing malignant tumors after the age of 50.

12.    People belonging to white race are at about 10 times higher risk of developing malignant melanomas compared to Africans.

Lastly, skin melanoma is highly dangerous as other types of deadliest cancers such as the lung cancer. With proper care and early treatment it is possible to treat skin cancer by using advanced medical techniques. So, whenever you suffer with skin diseases for prolonged periods or find any abnormal growth on skin consult the physician immediately for proper treatment and to avoid the risk of skin cancer.

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