Skin cancer is the most widely diagnosed disease throughout the world. The skin is the body’s largest organ, having various functions such as providing protection from injury because it acts as a protective barrier against potential microorganisms that can be fatal to the body. Similarly, the skin functions as a storehouse of water and works with the adipose tissue (subcutaneous fat) and finally, it regulates the body temperature.
There are several factors that influence the onset of skin cancer, such as ultraviolet (UV) rays released by intense sun radiation. UV rays cause mutations in the DNA of skin cells, thus modifying the genetic makeup and converting it into a malignant cell. Around the world, skin cancer is most prevalent in light-skinned people.
Types of Skin Cancer
Basal Cell Carcinoma
This cancer usually occurs in places like the face; usually it is found on the forehead and nose. Some people may be at an increased risk due to genetic predisposition; which increases the chances of suffering from skin cancer. UV light and exposure to certain chemicals such as arsenic also influence the onset of skin cancer cells.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
This usually occurs in areas of the body where sunlight reaches directly, since the ultraviolet rays easily interact with the skin tissue; however, there is no guarantee that this type of cancer will only appear in these areas. In its early stage, squamous cell carcinoma appears as a reddish area; it may also resemble a wart. This type of cancer usually only affects the area where it appears, since it tends to reside deeper in the tissues that surround it. However, there is also the possibility that it will spread, penetrating into high-risk areas, and lead to death.
This is a type of cancer that develops from the pigment-containing cells known as melanocytes. It usually appears as a dark colored tumor — due to increased melanin, the pigment secreted by cells that turns the skin dark — and leads to the appearance of black or brown spots on the skin. Melanoma is the leading cause of deaths from skin cancer, and usually occurs in light skinned people (Caucasians). About 165,000 cases of melanoma are detected each year worldwide, of which 48,000 are fatal. These cells are generally very invasive because they have a great capacity to metastasize and spread throughout the body. Other organs that can be affected are the intestine and the eyes. Melanoma is responsible for the death of 75% of people who are diagnosed with skin cancer.
Generally, one of the most influential factors in the onset of the disease is exposure to sunlight; however, there are machines in use every day, such as tanning machines, which are another factor to consider when it comes to prevention. There are skin care practices, that if implemented consistently, can prevent skin cancer.
Recommendations to prevent skin cancer
There are risk factors for people who are often in direct contact with sunlight and they should take extra precautions. Bearing in mind it is for the prevention of a potential disease, it is recommended that if you are going to be in the sun for many hours that you use:
More attention should be given to light skinned people with light or blue eyes, who are approximately 50 years of age, since they are often more vulnerable to the disease.
In short, some of the factors that trigger the onset of skin cancer are:
- Excessive exposure to natural or artificial light, so we must avoid the harmful UV rays which can be filtered with sunscreen.
- Light-colored or blue eyes.
- Weakened immune system.
- Genetic changes associated with this type of cancer.
- Exposure to arsenic.
- Exposure to high doses of radiation.
Don’t forget: always use sunscreen and be careful out there!!