Skin cancer. How can you protect yourself from it?

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Skin cancer. How can you protect yourself from it?

Skin cancer is a general term for malignant tumors that form in skin cells. It is one of the most common forms of cancer worldwide. Skin cancer is divided into several main types based on the cells in which it begins to grow.

The first and most common type is basal cell carcinoma, which arises from the basal layer of skin cells. It usually appears as a small, shiny nodule on the skin that can be light or dark.

The second most common type is squamous cell carcinoma, which develops from cells on the surface of the skin. It may look like a bumpy, red lump or sore that won't heal.

The third type , melanoma, is less common but far more dangerous because it can quickly spread to other organs. Melanoma usually arises from pigment cells called melanocytes and can appear at the site of existing moles or as a new, abnormal-looking spot on the skin .

It is important to emphasize that skin cancer, especially its aggressive forms such as melanoma, can have serious health consequences, so it is important to be attentive to changes in your skin and contact specialists in time .

Risk factors for skin cancer

Skin cancer risk factors are important to understand because they contribute to the risk of skin malignancy. These factors are varied and understanding them can help people take preventive steps or detect skin cancer early.

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation
It is one of the most important risk factors for skin cancer. Long-term or intense exposure to sunlight, especially during childhood and adolescence, increases the risk of skin cancer. Sunburn, especially with blisters, is extremely dangerous. Artificial UV exposure, such as from tanning beds, also significantly increases the risk.
Skin type and pigmentation
People with light skin , light or red hair, blue, green or gray eyes are more prone to skin cancer because their skin has less of the protective pigment melanin. Those with skin that tans easily and rarely tans are also at greater risk.
Genetic factors and family history
People whose close relatives (parents, brothers, sisters) have had skin cancer, especially melanoma, have a higher risk of developing this disease. Certain genetic disorders, such as xeroderma pigmentosum , also significantly increase the risk of skin cancer.
A large number of moles and abnormal moles
Individuals with many moles, especially if they are large or abnormally shaped (dysplastic nevi), have a higher risk of skin cancer, especially melanoma.
Although skin cancer can occur at any age, the risk increases with age as skin changes and UV exposure accumulate over time.
Weakness of the immune system
People with weakened immune systems , such as organ transplant patients, AIDS patients, or those taking immunosuppressants, have an increased risk of developing skin cancer.
A previous case of skin cancer
People who have had skin cancer in the past have a higher risk of getting it again.
Exposure to harmful substances
Certain chemicals, such as arsenic, and certain types of radiation, such as X-rays, can increase the risk of skin cancer.

Given these factors, it's important for people to take preventative steps , such as using sunscreen regularly, wearing sun-protective clothing, and avoiding direct sun exposure, especially during the day when the sun's rays are at their strongest. In addition, regular skin checks, especially for those at higher risk, can help detect skin cancer early, when it is most treatable.

What are the symptoms of skin cancer?

Symptoms of skin cancer are varied and can vary depending on the type of cancer. It is important to be aware of these symptoms, as early recognition is essential for effective treatment. Skin cancer usually manifests itself as noticeable changes on the skin that may look unusual or alarming. These symptoms are important for all types of skin cancer, including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.

  1. New skin growths or changes in existing moles. Any new spots, nodules, sores, moles, or other skin growths that appear and do not go away could be a sign of skin cancer. It is especially important to pay attention to formations that change color, size, shape or texture.
  2. Asymmetry. If a mole or other skin growth is asymmetrical (one side does not match the other), it may be a sign of melanoma.
  3. Blurring of edges. Unclear, jagged, or ragged edges of a mole or blemish may indicate skin cancer.
  4. Color change. More than one color (for example, brown, black, blue, red) in the same formation can be a sign of melanoma.
  5. Size. Growths that are larger than the size of a dime (about 6 mm in diameter) are potentially dangerous.
  6. Changes. Any changes in the appearance of the formation over time are important symptoms of skin cancer.
  7. Wounds that won't heal. Areas of skin that look like sores and do not heal for more than a few weeks may indicate the presence of squamous cell carcinoma.
  8. Itching, burning or pain. Although these symptoms can be signs of many other skin conditions, they can also indicate skin cancer, especially if they involve new or changing skin growths.
  9. Bleeding. Formations that begin to bleed, urinate or secrete other liquid require immediate medical attention.

These symptoms are not always signs of skin cancer , but their occurrence is a reason to visit a dermatologist or other health care professional. It is important to check your skin regularly, especially if there are risk factors for skin cancer, and watch for any skin changes based on these symptoms.

How to recognize skin cancer?

Recognizing skin cancer or other skin malignancies is vital because early diagnosis can significantly increase the chances of successful treatment. The steps you can take to regularly check your skin and recognize suspicious changes are essential.

Regular self-examination 
It's important to carefully examine your entire skin regularly, about once a month, including your scalp, between your toes, feet, back, and other hard-to-reach areas. This can be done using a mirror or asking for help from a close person.
The ABCDE rule for recognizing melanoma
This is a method by which moles and other skin growths can be assessed for malignancy:
  • A - Asymmetry: One side of the mole does not match the other.
  • B - Border blurring: The edges of the mole are blurred, irregular or ragged.
  • C - Color: A mole comes in several different colors (gray, brown, black, red, or bluish).
  • D - Size: Changes in size, especially if the mole is larger than 6 mm in diameter.
  • E - Evolution: Any change in a mole over time, including shape, size, color, texture, or the appearance of a new feature , such as bleeding or itching.
Features of malignant skin formations
In addition to the ABCDE rule, it is important to pay attention to other signs:
  • The emergence of new formations. Any new lumps, spots or moles, especially if they change or look unusual.
  • Wounds that won't heal. Parts of the skin that look like wounds and do not heal for a long time.
  • Texture changes. Skin thickening, roughness, lumps or bumps.
  • Discomfort or characteristic symptoms. Itching, burning, bleeding or pain in skin lesions.
This is a special skin examination technique performed by dermatologists using a dermatoscope. This allows the doctor to examine the skin formations in detail and determine their malignancy.
Professional skin checks
Especially important for individuals at higher risk of skin cancer, such as those with fair skin, multiple moles, or a family history of skin cancer. A dermatologist can perform a thorough skin examination and, if necessary, refer you for further testing, such as a biopsy.
Biopsy and histological examination
If a malignant skin growth is suspected, the doctor may perform a biopsy - remove part of the skin growth and send it to a laboratory for examination. Histological examination allows to determine the type of cells and their malignancy.

Detecting skin cancer early is an essential part of successful treatment. Regular self-examination, attention to skin changes, and consultation with health care professionals are essential to ensure early and effective detection and treatment of skin cancer.

How can the risk of skin cancer be reduced?

It is possible to reduce the risk of skin cancer by taking certain preventive measures , which are related to lifestyle choices and behavior. These tips are especially important for people at higher risk of skin cancer, but they should be used by everyone to protect their skin and stay healthy.

Avoid direct sunlight
The most important thing is to avoid sunlight, especially during the day when UV radiation is strongest (usually between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.). One should seek shade and try not to let the sun's rays directly affect the skin.
Use sunscreen
Sunscreen with a high protection factor (SPF) should be used daily, even on cloudy days. The recommended SPF level is 30 or higher. It is important to apply enough sunscreen and reapply every few hours, especially after swimming or sweating profusely.
Wear protective clothing
Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, wide-brimmed hats, and UV-protective sunglasses can help protect your skin from UV rays. Modern materials often have UV protection.
Avoid tanning beds
Artificial ultraviolet radiation, such as in tanning beds, significantly increases the risk of skin cancer, including melanoma. It is important to completely opt out of these services.
Regular skin checks
Regularly checking your skin can help you detect suspicious skin changes early. This includes the appearance of new moles, changes in existing moles, or any unusual skin growths.
Know your risk factors
If you are fair-skinned, have a lot of moles, or have a family history of skin cancer, you should be extra careful and see a dermatologist regularly.
Healthy diet and lifestyle
Although the direct links between diet and skin cancer are not clear, a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables can contribute to overall health and boost the immune system. It is also important to avoid smoking, which can weaken the skin and increase the risk of cancer.
Supplements with vitamin D
Since avoiding the sun can reduce vitamin D levels in the body, it is important to discuss the possibility of taking vitamin D supplements with your doctor.

Following these tips can help reduce the risk of skin cancer and contribute to a healthier lifestyle . It is important to emphasize that although these tips can reduce the risk, they do not guarantee absolute protection against skin cancer. That's why it's important to get regular checkups and keep a close eye on any skin changes.

Information sources:

  1. American Cancer Society
  2. "World Health Organization (WHO)"
  3. National Cancer Institute
  4. Mayo Clinic
  5. DermNet NZ

# skin cancer

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