Understanding Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is the most prevalent of all types of cancers. Fair-skinned individuals who sunburn easily are at a particularly high risk for developing skin cancer. Other important risk factors include use of tanning devices, family history, scarring from diseases or burns, and occupational exposure to compounds such as coal, tar, and arsenic.
Actinic Keratosis (AK)
Actinic keratosis is considered the earliest stage in the development of certain skin cancers. They are small, scaly spots most commonly found on the face, ears, neck, forearms, the scalp of bald men, and backs of the hands of individuals who have had significant sun exposure. AKs are treated by Dr. Lateef by cryosurgery, electrodessication, curettage, or other dermatological surgical procedures. Some AKs may progress to advanced stages that require more extensive treatment. Proper use of sunscreens can help prevent AKs even after extensive sun damage has already occurred.
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)
Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer, it occurs most frequently on the head and neck, with the rest mainly on the trunk and lower limbs, and often appears as a fleshy bump, nodule, or red patch. BCCs are frequently found in fair skinned people and rarely occur in dark-skinned individuals. BCCs usually do not grow quickly, but this does not mean treatment should be delayed. While BCCs rarely metastasize to other organs, if left untreated, the cancer often will begin to repeatedly bleed and crust over, and can extend from the skin to the bone and nerves causing considerable local damage.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)
Squamous Cell Carcinoma is the second most common skin cancer, it is primarily found in fair-skinned people and rarely in dark-skinned individuals. Typically located on the rim of the ear, face, near the mouth or on the trunk, this cancer may appear as a firm bump, or as a red, scaly patch. SCC can develop into large masses and become invasive, leading to extensive local tissue destruction and possible risk of metastasis. Therefore, it is important to get early treatment. When detected and treated early, the cure rate for both Basal Cell Carcinoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma approaches 95 percent.
Malignant Melanoma is the most deadly of all skin cancers. It begins in melanocytes, the cells throughout the skin that produce the pigment called melanin which makes the skin tan. Clusters of melanocytes are what make up moles. Melanoma may appear suddenly or begin in or near a mole, or another dark spot in the skin. It is important to know the location and appearance of the moles on the body to detect changes early. Since melanoma cells can continue to produce melanin, this skin cancer often appears in mixed shades of tan, brown, and black, although it can also be red or white.
Any changing mole must be examined by a dermatologist. Early melanoma can be removed while still in the curable stage; melanoma readily metastasizes, making early detection and treatment essential to increase survival rates.
Excessive sun exposure, especially sunburn, is the most important preventable risk factor for melanoma. Fair-skinned individuals are at particular risk, but heredity also plays a part. Dark skin is not a guarantee against melanoma. People with skin of color can develop melanoma, especially on the palms, soles, under the nails, in the mouth, or on the genitalia.