You’ve seen the commercials. You’ve heard the PSAs. Maybe you’ve even come across a few billboards or magazine ads. They all talk about how important skin cancer screening is. Nonetheless, you haven’t gotten around to making that appointment with your doctor. Instead of simply telling you to get screened, we are going to break down what skin cancer is and why it is truly important to be screened for skin cancer regularly.
To put it plainly, skin cancer is the irregular growth of skin cells that is caused by the mutation of DNA within the cells. There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.
BCC is the most common form of skin cancer and also the least dangerous. It begins as a growth on the top layer of the skin and appears as small bumps or growths that can often look like moles. BCC very rarely spreads beyond its initial infected region which is why it’s not particularly dangerous. However, if left untreated, BCC can become an issue and affect the tissue and bone.
This is the second most common type of skin cancer and it is also rarely fatal. Squamous cells are the cells that make up the middle and top layers of our skin. In SCC, these cells become cancerous and over time will spread to other parts of the body, including lymph nodes and bone, causing serious health complications. SCC appears as hard red bumps or nodules on the skin that may crust over and sometimes ooze.
Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. It begins its development within melanocytes, the cells responsible for pigmentation. For many people, melanoma appears as a change in existing moles or the development of new, strange-looking moles. Melanoma, if given time, will begin to spread rapidly and aggressively to other organs
All three skin cancers are said to be caused by overexposure to sunlight or ultraviolet radiation (i.e, tanning beds). People with weaker immune systems, fairer skin, blonde or red hair, or genetic disorders are more likely to develop skin cancer. The best way to prevent this is to limit the amount of sun exposure, avoid tanning beds and use sunscreen.
Skin cancer has a tendency to grow and spread. This is most true for melanoma. When cancer begins to attack other regions of the body, it becomes harder to treat and control. If it spreads too far and too deep into the body and reaches vital organs, it becomes almost impossible to cure in enough time to save your life. This is why screening is so crucial.
Luckily, skin cancer is easy to detect. The sooner it is seen, the sooner it can be treated. Yet, the only way to detect cancer early is to go in for screening. Do not wait until you notice symptoms. At that point, the cancer has already begun attacking your body and depending on the type of cancer, it may be too late. Instead, be proactive and schedule regular screenings to be safe and be sure.
This is especially important for people who enjoy spending time outdoors and often find themselves exposed to sunlight or enjoy frequenting tanning salons. You don’t have to change your lifestyle. Simply remember to always apply sunscreen, protect yourself from direct sunlight and go in for regular skin cancer screenings. It may just save your life.