Recently in Skin Cancers Category

July 1, 2014

Skin Cancers

The skin like other organs in the body can be affected by cancer. Skin cancer is an abnormal and uncontrolled growth of skin cells that can be divided into three types:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma.
  • Basal cell carcinoma.
  • Malignant melanoma.

Squamous cell carcinoma:

This type of cancer originates from the squamous cells present in the epidermis which is the outer most layer of the skin (see the skin). Too much exposure to ultraviolet light of sun is the most common cause and that's why it is more common on areas that are exposed to sun light.

Certain factors increase the risk of squamous skin cancer which may include:

  • Sunlight exposure for a long time.
  • People with fair skin are more affected than people with dark skin because they have less melanin pigment which protects the skin from sunlight.
  • People who have been exposed to x-rays for a prolonged time.
  • Burns, ulcers and old scars on the skin.
  • Exposure to chemical substances such as arsenic.
  • Old age people.
  • Genetic disorders eg, Xeroderma pigmentosum.
  • People with suppressed or low immunity.
Squamous cell carcinoma can appear on any area of the body but it mostly appear on sun exposed areas such as the head and neck including the ears and lips, back of the hands.

Symptoms and signs:

  • In early stages the skin change may include a skin bump that may be pink or red in color with a rough or scaly surface.
  • A change in a pre existing lesion is a warning sign.
  • Actinic Keratosis is a precancerous skin lesion that may change to squamous cell cancer, changes in Actinic Keratosis may be a warning sign for developing squamous cell carcinoma, and these changes may include: increase in size, increase in redness, bleeding, thickening or pain.
  • This type of cancer has the ability to spread to the deeper layers of the skin and may also spread to other areas of the body as well.
Diagnosis:

Diagnosis is usually made by examining the lesion and confirmed by taking a skin biopsy, there are many types of biopsies and the patient is given local anesthesia before taking the biopsy to numb the skin.

Treatment:

The earlier the diagnosis is, the better is the cure rate. Factors that determine the treatment options are: tumor size, the location of tumor and whether or not the tumor has spread.

  • Cutting the tumor out (excision) after giving local anesthesia and then the wound is closed with stitches.
  • Curettage and electrodessication in which the cancer cells are scrapped away with a curette and the remaining is destroyed with an electrical current that generates heat. This type of treatment is used for small squamous cell carcinoma.
  • Cryotherapy: this method freezes the tumor cells using liquid nitrogen leading to their destruction.
  • Advanced surgery called Mohs surgery in which the surgeon after removing each piece of skin, examines it under a microscope to check if there is any cancer cells left behind, if tumor cells are still present another piece is removed until the skin sample is free from cancer cells. This type of surgery is mostly used for tumors on the face such as the ears or for difficult or recurring tumors.
  • Actinic keratosis and some cases of Bowen's disease which is the earliest form of squamous cell cancer can be treated with 5-fluorouracil containing lotion or imiquimod.
  • Radiotherapy: this method may be used when the tumor is large, in places where it is difficult to remove or to relieve symptoms when the tumor has spread to other parts of the body. Radiotherapy maybe used alone or in combination with surgery.
  • Chemotherapy: this method is used in cases where there is spread of the tumor to other body parts. In advanced cases, chemotherapy is added to surgery or radiation.
  • Photodynamic laser therapy: may be used in Bowen's disease.
Prevention:
  • As sun exposure is the most important factor, protecting the skin by wearing protective clothes which include hats, long sleeve clothes and UV protective glasses and try to stay out of the sun during peak sunny hours from 10am-4pm.
  • Using sunscreens with a sun protective factor (SPF) of at least 15. For children and persons with fair skin use sun protective factor of 30.
  • Regular checking of the skin for any lesion that recently appeared, changes in an existing lesion that may be suspicious include: growing, any change in appearance, bleeding, pain, itching, inflammation or a lesion that never heals completely.

This information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice; it should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.

May 10, 2011

Tanning Too Often Can Cause Burns, and Even Cancer

CBS News in New York ran a story this week about a new proposed law that would make New York the first state to ban indoor tanning for minors.

While this might seem to be a bit too much government intervention for some people, think about this: The issue is rising rates of skin cancer. A 2010 study found regular use of tanning beds can triple the risk for melanoma, the most deadly form of the disease. The risk was quadruple for people using high-pressure tanning beds, which give off more UVA radiation.

"It can be horrific," said Harvey Weisenberg, who is sponsoring the bill in the state assembly. "This is a cancer-causing process. Teenagers do it for proms. They do it for special occasions. There is lots of evidence" of harm, he claims.

The World Health Organization states that the $1 billion tanning industry uses some machines that can provide five times the ultraviolet radiation of the midday sun. This could raise the chance of cancer in the long term--and even cause second-degree burns in a single session, if someone stays in a tanning booth for too long.

The five-times-the-sun's-radiation claim, however, is one that the tanning industry disputes. Indoor Tanning Association spokesman John Overstreet, responds that the foundations supporting this research might be biased, as they are financially supported by sunscreen manufacturers. The prominent Skin Cancer Foundation, for example, is funded by more than 50 sunscreen, makeup and skin care companies and drug store chains, according to its website.

"Kids can get an abortion without parental permission, but they can't get a tan," said Dan Humiston, president of the National Indoor Tanning Association, which is fighting the measure. He owns 41 Tanning Bed stores from Buffalo to Utica.

Tanning remains popular amongst youth. A quarter of young woman polled by the American Academy of Dermatology said they regularly used tanning beds.

But skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, with more than 3.5 million cases affecting more than two million people each year, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

The good news is that skin cancer treatment can be very effective when the disease is caught early. Doctors use the ABCDE rule to determine if a mole or skin growth might be cancerous. The National Cancer Institute breaks down ABCDE like this.

- Asymmetry: The shape of one half does not match the other half.

- Border that is irregular: The edges are often ragged, notched, or blurred in outline. The pigment may spread into the surrounding skin.

- Color that is uneven: Shades of black, brown, and tan may be present. Areas of white, gray, red, pink, or blue may also be seen.

- Diameter: There is a change in size, usually an increase. Melanomas can be tiny, but most are larger than the size of a pea (larger than 6 millimeters or about 1/4 inch).

- Evolving: The mole has changed over the past few weeks or months.

The best person to diagnose skin cancer is your doctor. Annual checkups with a dermatologist are recommended.

March 17, 2011

Severe Burns from Radiation: Lessons from Cancer Treatments


With Japan suffering through a national health scare over the leaking of radiation from its tsunami-damaged nuclear power plants, the topic of radiation sickness and radiation burns has made it front and center in the newspapers and TV news programs.

But the most common sources of radiation burns are the sun, and treatments for cancer. First, repeated sunburns means repeated radiation exposure, which damages skin cells so much that the possibility of getting carcinoma, melanoma, or other skin cancer is significant among people who do not take precautions to protect their skin from the sun.

Ironically, for people who have breast, cancer, colon cancer, and other types, radiation therapy is often used to stop malignant tumors from growing and spreading, and eventually killing them. But this treatment often results in radiation burns.

Here are a few things patients can do to help speed healing, and alleviate the pain of these burns--which actually hurt more than third-degree burns that destroy nerve endings.

-Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is used to treat severe radiation burns because of the increased need for nutrients and the need to generate healing quickly because of possible surgery to remove a malignancy. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy works as the pressure within the hyperbaric tank presses upon the vessels and saturates the plasma in the blood. This causes an increased amount of oxygen flow and increases the healing process. It also generates new skin cells.

-Intravenous therapy is used for severe radiation burns because the body can easily become dehydrated. This loss of fluids is due to the exposed, burned skin that cannot hold in moisture, and increased body temperature. Fluids are pumped into the body to help keep the patient hydrated and to speed recovery.

-Cool compresses as well as careful skin care will be needed for a radiation burn site after therapy for a malignancy. Cool compresses are applied to the affected areas to help the healing process and to relieve some of the burning feeling patients may experience.

-Because radiation-burned skin commonly becomes dry, red and flaky, and thus becomes itchy and irritating, applying aloe vera, a gentle moisturizer, to the skin can help ease flakiness and help promote burn healing. Aloe vera presents an ideal radiation burn moisturizer, since it is is gentle on the skin and should not cause further irritation. Aloe vera gel does not contain oils or fats, which act to seal heat into the radiation burn and slow the healing process. But remember that the American Cancer Society cautions that patients with allergies to onions, garlic or tulips may have adverse reactions to its use.

-Pain medications are necessary to ease discomfort from a radiation burn. Anything from ibuprofen to morphine may be administered, depending on the severity of the burns. Lesser burns may be treated with over-the-counter drugs, but doctors may prescribe more serious pain medications for higher levels of pain.

-Debridement of the radiation burn site as well as antibiotic therapy will be used to treat the radiation burn area. Infection also may occur with radiation burns and needs to be treated to prevent further complications from the radiated burn site.

Lastly, consider this: If you do obtain severe burn injuries from a medical treatment, you might want to consult with a person-injury law firm such as Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, NY, to see if the medical provider was negligent in applying the treatment.