Skin Cancer: Causes & Symptoms

4 min read

skin cancer signs
Supriya Singh
Words hold immense power to change the world. I'm here to inspire and spread positivity.

Cancer is one of the most feared medical conditions ever. Cancer forms when the cells in the body grow in an uncontrolled manner. This condition can appear in any part of the body. One of the most common types of cancer that occurs is skin cancer.

Skin cancer signs can develop in any individual irrespective of skin color, ethnicity, and race. But still, we all see or read mostly that it occurs commonly in American people.

Although, according to a study of 2018, the highest occurrence rate of melanoma skin cancer in both sexes is in Australia. 

Keeping the stats aside, so today, we are here to provide you the fundamentals of skin cancer and skin cancer signs — what are the skin cancer symptoms, what causes skin cancer, and most important question of all time – is skin cancer deadly?

Skin and skin cancer

The skin is the largest organ of the human body. It comprises mainly three layers – the epidermis (outermost layer), dermis (mid-layer), and subcutaneous tissue (innermost layer). 

The skin consists of four types of cells – keratinocytes or squamous cells, melanocytes, Merkel cells, and Langerhans cells. New cells form in the lowest part of the epidermis that contains the basal cells. 

The cells in our body grow and die in a continuous process – in short, the cells go through a process of regeneration. 

So, when there is a mutation in the skin cells, the growth becomes uncontrolled, leading to the formation of a mass of cancerous cells, that we call skin cancer.

What causes skin cancer?

When it comes to finding out the cause behind the development of cancer, the answer remains mostly hazy. There is never a definitive explanation of what causes skin cancer. However, there are few factors that are known to trigger the mutation in the skin cells. 

  • The most common cause of skin cancer is excessive exposure to ultraviolet rays. UV rays are commonly present in excess in sunlight and tanning beds. This damages the skin cells functioning, and hence it leads to uncontrolled skin cells growth. 
skin cancer signs

Regarding exposure to UV rays, if you stay in a location at high altitude, then also you will be prone to skin cancer. Apart from this, other risk factors that lead to the development of skin cancer are: 

  • Genetics

Like most medical conditions, skin cancer is most likely to occur if the previous generations have had it. The possibility of skin cancer increases if either or both the parents also have the condition. 

  • Presence of melanin

Although a person of any skin color may develop skin cancer, people with fair skin or less melanin production are more prone to skin cancer. However, this doesn’t mean that a dark-skinned person is safe from skin cancer.

  • You have many moles on your body

Moles are usually harmless. However, in extremely rare situations, this can lead to the development of skin cancer.

  • Radiation and heavy metal exposure

People who work with harmful and toxic substances on a daily basis are most likely to develop any form of cancer. Most importantly, people who have been treated previously with radiation, the chances of skin cancer also increase.

  • Weak immune system

The immune system of the human body is the biological defense system that keeps the body healthy and safe from any harmful particles. But when your immune system becomes compromised due to any reason, you may also develop skin cancer. 

Types of skin cancer

Skin cancer can be divided into two categories – melanoma cancer and non-melanoma cancer. Melanoma cancer occurs in the melanocytes that are an integral part of melanin. 

The common and rare types of melanoma cancer are – 

  • Superficial spreading melanoma
  • Nodular melanoma
  • Acral-lentiginous melanoma
  • Lentigo maligna melanoma
  • Amelanotic and Desmoplastic melanoma
  • Ocular melanoma

Non-melanoma cancer occurs in the skin cells other than melanocytes. The common types of non-melanoma skin cancer are:

  • Basal cell carcinoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma

Apart from these, some rare non melanoma skin cancers are Merkel cell carcinoma, Kaposi sarcoma, sebaceous gland carcinoma. 

Skin cancer signs and symptoms

The good thing about skin cancer commonly is it develops on the skin that mostly remains exposed to the sun. Like the other types of cancer, it is safe if you can detect skin cancer in the initial stage. The symptoms of skin cancer are different in every type of skin cancer. 

Before we help with the skin cancer symptoms, let us point out the most common locations in the body where skin cancer develops.

  • Skin Cancer on Ear
  • Skin Cancer on Face
  • Mouth area
  • Neck
  • Under your nails
  • Genitalia
  • Feet

1. Basal cell carcinoma:

  • Bleeding from an open sore, along with the release of pus for weeks.
  • It may also look like a brown or red-colored lesion that itches and hurts. 

2. Squamous cell carcinoma:

Patchy and scaly skin that bleeds along with wart-like growth with a rough surface and depressed mid-portion.

skin cancer signs

3. Merkel cell carcinoma:

  • Dome-shaped lumps, that are painless and grow fast. 
  • These lumps or nodule like structures may be red or bluish-red in color. 
  • This type of skin cancer appears more commonly in an older person. 

4. Kaposi Sarcoma:

  • Development of bumps on your face or throat area that may be purple, pink, brownish, or reddish. 
  • Some may also experience cough or chest pain, swollen lymph nodes without any reason.

5. Sebaceous gland carcinoma: 

  • This form of non-melanoma cancer occurs mostly around or on eyelids.
  •  A person with this cancer may develop a yellow-colored lump (hard and painless) on the eyelid that increases in size over time. 
  • This lump may also look like a pimple that doesn’t go away for a long time.

6. Melanoma

The appearance of new moles or changes in the color and size of pre-existing moles. The appearance of new spots on your skin that has been spreading. Skin cancer moles appear on the skin which changes their shape and size.

Is skin cancer deadly?

Out of all the different forms and types of skin cancer, the deadliest skin cancer is melanoma(metastasized). However, the other forms of skin cancer may also result in death if not detected and treated in time or as early as possible. 

treatment for skin cancer

If the possible skin cancer is in its initial stages, then it can be diagnosed with the help of a biopsy and remove the affected part surgically. In other cases, there are several options regarding treatment for skin cancer. To know in detail about the stages of skin cancer and its treatment, read this article. 

Preventing skin cancer

The easiest way to prevent skin cancer is to take good care of your skin. The biggest armour that you will ever find against skin cancer is a sunblock or a sunscreen with SPF 30 at least. 

Avoid too much exposure in the sunlight. However, this doesn’t mean you have to avoid sunlight as a whole. The human body needs sunlight for the production of Vitamin D. So, do step out in the sun from time to time and always apply some sunscreen or sunblock. 

Take care🏵