There are a few factors which determine which types of skin cancer you can develop; all three can be triggered by overexposure to harmful UV radiation from the sun or tanning beds. However, there are other causes such as chemical exposure, radiation therapy, thermal burns (and scar sites) that damage the delicate cells in the epidermis. This eventually determines which skin cancer will grow.
Types Of Skin Cancer
Every living cell in your body has a control center called the NUCLEUS which is responsible for the cell’s lifecycle, from its growth, to its death. The nucleus is made up of coded information called DNA. If the cell’s DNA becomes damaged from factors such as trauma, environmental elements or even from inheriting a bad gene, the nucleus no longer has the ability to manage the cell’s behaviour which commonly leads to uncontrolled growth and its formation into a tumor. Skin cancer does have an advantage however, as it affects the outer layers of the skin so the formation of a tumor means that it is visible to the eye, unlke internal cancer tumors that may go unnoticed for months.
The main types of skin cancer are Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma and Melanoma. The name of each type denotes the particular cell of the epidermis (outer layer of skin) that the cancer develops in.
1. Squamous Skin Cancer affects the squamous cells which are in the uppermost layer of the epidermis.
2. Below these are the basal cells which can develop into basal skin cancer.
3. Within the basal cells lay the melanoma cells (melanocytes). They are the cells that produce melanin pigment that give you a tan, and it is these cells that can become a deadly melanoma skin cancer.
There are approximately 1500 melanoma cells within every millimeter square of the epidermis, and it is the quality of these melanocytes, not the quantity, that determines whether you have skin that tans or burns. Melanocytes absorb the harmful UVB radiation that would otherwise penetrate the deeper layers of the skin.
Skin moles are localised clusters of melanocytes (melanocytic nevi) and a ‘normal mole’ may be pale or dark in colour, raised or flat. It may have been with you since birth or have developed later on. This is called an atypical nevus and is perfectly normal. The only time to be concerned is when the mole changes, either in colour, in size, if it becomes ulcerated or painful or the outer border becomes ragged looking rather than smoothe and even. These may be the first signs of it developing into the most dangerous types of skin cancer – Malignant Melanoma.
It is absolutely essential, if you have a young child, you realise the major cause of skin cancer is overexposure to UV radiation from sunight in infancy. Every time your child experiences sunburn, the damaging radiation is very slowly destroying the DNA within each skin cell. Over the following years, these cells may start to grow uncontrollably and form a tumor.
As an additional note, research now shows that sunscreens offer only limited protection so please be sun savvy and look after your loved ones.
I hope the information in this website will help you to understand how the risk of developing any of these types of skin cancer may be reduced by managing the damage to your skin cells during your lifetime, starting from a very young age.