Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK. Although there are many different types of skin cancer, the three most common ones are Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma and Malignant Melanoma.
Basal Cell Carcinoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma are classed as non-melanoma skin cancers. About 100,000 cases are reported each year. Basal Cell Carcinoma is more common but this usually grows slowly and rarely affects other organs (becomes malignant). Squamous cell carcinoma can be more serious and may spread to other organs in the body if left untreated. This type of skin cancer mostly appears on sun exposed parts of the body such as the face, backs of the hands and lower legs.
Malignant melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer because it more readily spreads to other parts of the body. The latest figures show that around 12,800 people are diagnosed with malignant melanoma in the UK every year. This can appear anywhere on the body but is most common on the legs in women and the back in men.
There are a number of different types of treatment for skin cancer, and the treatment you have will depend on a number of different factors including the type of cancer and how far it has spread. Surgery to remove the affected skin is often the first treatment option. One type of surgery is skin excision, where the skin cancer is removed together with some of the surrounding healthy tissue. Skin excision is usually performed under local anaesthetic, although general anaesthetic is sometimes required, and if the skin cancer is extensive, a skin graft may also be needed. Radiotherapy is also used to treat some forms of skin cancer, particularly if it covers a wide area or to reduce the chance of it coming back after surgery.
Mohs’ micrographic surgery is often used to treat Basal Cell Carcinoma, or Squamous Cell Carcinoma in visible areas or following reoccurrence after other treatments. It involves removing a skin cancer one layer at a time and then examining these layers under a microscope immediately after they are removed. Photodynamic therapy is also used to treat pre-cancerous skin lesions or superficial basal cell carcinomas. This requires application of a cream which is absorbed just by damaged skin cells. These are subsequently destroyed by shining a light to the affected area and this sometimes takes away the need for surgery.
If you are worried you might have skin cancer you should consult your GP who may refer you to a dermatologist to assess the problem in detail. You may also need a biopsy before any treatment is planned. As with most types of cancer, early diagnosis of skin cancer improves the chances of successful treatment.
Source:Cancer Research UK