Skin cancer: How to protect your skin?
Published 13 Jun 2021 • By Candice Salomé
There are several different types of skin cancer. One well-known and serious is melanoma, which is the most dangerous because it can metastasise. Another type is non-melanoma skin cancer which includes squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma.
According to the Department of Health, approximately 100 000 cases of skin cancer are diagnosed every year in the UK and around 70% are basal cell carcinomas.
So what are the different types of skin cancer? How can we protect our skin from them?
We tell you everything in our article!
What is skin cancer?
In terms of area, skin is the most important human organ. Its role is to protect the body against infections and ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Skin also makes it easier to control body temperature and remove organic waste through perspiration.
It is also involved in the synthesis of vitamin D and stores water and fat supplies.
But skin is fragile and can be affected by cancer. In Europe, the rate of skin cancer increases from 5 to 7% each year. In the UK, 147 000 new cases of carcinoma and 16 200 new cases of melanoma skin cancer are diagnosed every year.
This rise may be explained by the changing pattern of solar and artificial UV exposure over the past 40 years.
In fact, the sun represents the main risk factor for developing a form of skin cancer.
There are several different types of skin cancer:
Squamous cell carcinomas are the most common types of cancer in adults (30% of all cancers) and are also the most common type of cancer among skin cancers.
Two main types of cancers develop from epidermal cells: squamous cell carcinomas and basal cell carcinomas. These vary through their behaviour and prognosis:
Basal cell carcinomas :
They mainly appear on areas with the most sun exposure: the face and neck in 80% of cases.
The major symptom suggestive of a carcinoma is the appearance or change of a growth on the skin or the presence of a non-healing wound.
Basal cell carcinoma can appear in a number of forms:
- Nodular form (called ("pearly nodule") : it is characterised by a firm to touch injury with vascularisation.
- Superficial form: it is characterised by the presence of a skin plaque with a sclay and desquamate appearance.
- Sclerodermiform: it is characterised by a plaque of hardened scar tissue which is genberally lighter than the skin.
This type of cancer rarely spreads in the body but can grow larger and deeper. A crucial prognosis is rarely made but may cause disfigurements or even the loss of an organ such as the ear, nose or eye.
Spinal cell carcinomas :
They have the appearance of thickened or reddened skin or growths that ressemble moles. Spinal cell carcinoma can also take the form of wounds or scabs on the skin. This type of cancer can grow rapidly, within a few weeks.
Spinal cell carcinoma may appear anywhere on the body. However, we generally find it on areas with the most sun exposure: the head, face, neck, shoulders and extremities (arms, legs, back of the hand).
These are cancerous tumours that form from cells that are responsible for eye and skin colour. In 90% of cases, they appear on the skin but can sometimes appear in the nose, mouth, sinus, rectum or even on the genitals. Melanomas represent 10% of skin cancers. Nevertheless, they are the most dangerous form as they spread rapidly. In the UK, 16 000 melanomas are diagnosed every year.
How to prevent skin cancer ?
Protect yourself from ultraviolet radiation
It is essential to protect the skin from the sun. Long-sleeved clothes and trousers are favoured. It is worth noting that polyester protects you more from the sun than cotton. There are specially designed clothes that provide maximum protection against UV called anti-UV clothes made from special microfibres.
It is important to avoid exposure without sun protection especially when the sun is at its strongest point. When the weather is cloudy, it is still advised to use an SPF because the sun's rays travel through the clouds.
Finally, you must avoid visiting tanning salons. The tanning lamps do not prepare the skin against sun rays.
Beware of any change in skin appearance
A cancer is easier to treat when it is detected at an early stage. It is extremely important to consult a doctor without delay if you notice one of the following signs:
- A beauty spot that changes in shape, colour or size.
- A new suspicious coloured lesion on the skin.
- The appearance of a lump under or on the skin.
- A non-healing skin lesion.
Be aware of the photosensitising effect from treatments
Certain treatments are photosensitising. That means to say that they increase the skin's sensitivity to ultraviolet radiation.
This is especially true for antibiotics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), certain psychotropics and psoralens (substances which contribute to skin pigmentation).
Some essential oils or herbal remedies also have a photosensitising effect.
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Good luck to everyone and take care!
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