NON-MELANOMA SKIN CANCERS
Due to their high treatability & low mortality, despite their high occurrence, non-melanoma skin cancers are not actually required to be reported to cancer registries, meaning that all statistics about them are best estimates & not up to date. In the last US estimate, in 2012, 5.4 million BCC & SCC skin cancers are diagnosed in 3.3 million Americans each year. In the UK, estimates from 2015, around 136,000 new non-melanoma skin cancers are diagnosed each year. People with compromised immune systems are at a higher risk for non-melanoma skin cancers.
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)
BCC is the most common type of skin cancer accounting for at least 75% of non-melanoma skin cancers cases. They develop from basal cells, hence the name, that are found in the deepest layer of the skin’s epidermis & around the hair follicle. BCCs can occur anywhere on the body, but mostly develop on areas of the skin that are often exposed to the sun, such as parts of the face like the nose, forehead & cheeks, but also on the back or lower legs.
There are a number of different subtypes of BCCs, such as nodular, superficial, morphoeic & pigmented. They can vary greatly in their appearance & act differently, but people often first become aware of them as a scab that bleeds occasionally & does not heal completely. The most common subtype of BCCs are nodular, about 50% of them. BCCs very rarely spread to other body parts to form secondary cancers. It is however possible to have more than one BCC at any one time. Having had a BCC does increase your risk of getting another.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)
SCC is the second most common type of skin cancer. About 20% of skin cancers are SCCs. They begin in cells called keratinocytes, found in the epidermis layer of the skin, & are caused by too much exposure to UV light. Most SCCs develop in areas that have been exposed to the sun, including parts of the head, neck, & the back of hands & forearms. They can also develop in scars, areas of skin that have been burnt in the past, or that have been ulcerated for a long time.
They are generally faster growing than BCCs but like BCCs they don’t often spread. If they do, it’s usually to the deeper layers of the skin. If left untreated, in rare occasions they can spread to nearby lymph nodes & other organs causing secondary cancers.
Malignant melanoma is the least common but more serious form of skin cancer. It can be fatal if not caught & removed early.
It is the fifth most common cancer in the UK & the 15th most common cancer worldwide. Melanoma starts in skin cells called melanocytes, that are found between the dermis & epidermis of the skin, & usually appears in or near to a mole.
While it is most common in older people, it is disproportionately high amongst young people compared to other cancer types. UV radiation from the sun or from sunbeds is the main environmental factor that increases the risk of developing malignant melanoma.
Other risk factors are pale skin that burns easily, having suffered past episodes of sunburn, having many ordinary or unusual moles, a family history of melanoma & having previously had skin cancer.
When detected in the early stages melanoma has a very high survival rate.
The ABCDs of Melanoma
It is good practice to check your skin for new or changing moles or marks about once a month. To keep an eye out for melanomas it is good to keep in mind the ABCD system. A melanoma may show one or more of the following features:
Asymmetry – an irregular shape, the two halves of the mark or mole are not the same. Border – irregular edges that are difficult to define & may sometimes show notches. Colour – the presence of more than one colour (different shades of black, brown, pink, etc.) or the uneven distribution of colour. Diameter – most melanomas are often more than 6 millimetres in diameter.
Skin cancer incident rates may be increasing but the mortality rates are decreasing. Incidence rates may be increasing simply due to a better understanding & detection of cases but also from changes in lifestyles. More & more people are going on holidays to hot climates & not ensuring they protect their skin adequately from the sun’s harmful UV rays.
A lot of people, especially younger women, are also using sunbeds which have been proven to dramatically increase the risk of skin cancer. Decreasing mortality rates is mainly associated with early detection & the high survival rate after treatment when detected early.
The most important thing to remember about skin cancer is how preventable it is. Considering about 86% of melanomas are caused by the UV rays from the sun, taking simple steps to protect your skin from sun exposure can significantly decrease your risk of skin cancer. Regular daily use of an SPF 15 or higher can reduce the risk of melanoma by 50%.
Sunscreen is not the only way to protect your skin from harmful exposure. You should avoid direct sun exposure when it is at its strongest & most dangerous, between 11 am & 3 PM. It is important when you are exposed to the sun to protect your skin with clothing, light long sleeve tops & hats & to make sure you cover any exposed skin with sunscreen. Sunscreen should be applied 15 to 30 minutes before going out in the sun & reapplied every two hours & immediately after swimming & towel drying.
For further information please contact,
Gürol Özhan Demirel
T: +90 222 320 36 63
M: +90 554 778 91 45