Skin cancer consists of the growth of abnormal skin cells which don't respect their normal functions and cycles. As in other types of cancers, these cells tend to grow and multiply, and they destroy surrounding tissues and eventually depart from or invade their original group of cells, and do the same on other parts of the body (metastasis).
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in humans. There are more cases of skin cancer than the number of cases of all other cancers combined.
Skin cancer is so common nowadays, that the Skin Cancer Foundation estimates that:
The circumstances or elements from the environment that affects skin cells and their genetic code are:
One of the best-known risk factors contributing to the development of skin cancer is overexposure to UV rays from the sun, age, and light tone of the skin. Elder people with light skin tone have a high risk of developing basal cell carcinoma. Some parts of the planet where the temperature tends to be high and skin tone tends to be light (i.e. Australia), have the highest proportion of skin cancer in the world. Northern Europeans also have a high risk due to their light skin tone.
Skin cancer tends to develop the most in those areas usually exposed to the sun, such as the face. Skin cancer may also develop in other parts of the head and neck, and only 20% of the time they may develop in areas least exposed to the sun such as the chest, back, limbs, or scalp.
Proliferative lesions of the skin may be benign or malignant. Benign lesions are also known as pre-malignant lesions due to their risk of becoming malignant if left untreated. Almost all malignant or pre-malignant lesions are associated with exposure to UV radiation.
Benign or pre-malignant skin lesions can be classified as pigmented (they have a normal colour) or unpigmented (they have excess melanin or dark colour.
The most common pigmented lesions are freckles, age spots or solar lentigo, and moles. Normally these lesions have a uniform color, flat in the case of freckles and lentigo, or raised and with even borders in the case of moles.
The most common unpigmented lesions are warts, amelanotic moles, and epidermoid cysts.
Other benign skin lesions are the different types of keratosis. These are proliferative lesions of keratinocytes, which are the cells that form the most superficial part of the skin or keratin. Most common type of keratosis is actinic or solar keratosis, a pre-malignant lesion that can degenerate into squamous cell in up to 10% of cases. Keratosis lesions are pretty common and, in some countries, it can affect up to 50% of elderly people.
Given the high incidence of actinic keratosis, it is convenient to treat these lesions to avoid the possibility of them degenerating into squamous cell carcinoma. There are many available treatments for actinic keratosis and usually, they are the same applied for skin cancers.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, skin damage due to exposure to UV rays is cumulative. Nearly 23 % of the damage to the skin due to exposure to the sun in humans occurs before reaching the age of 18.
Regular use of sunscreens with grade 15 or more, reduces the risk of developing a squamous cell carcinoma in approximately 40%.
Skin cancer diagnosis is established under the microscope, examining a sample obtained through biopsy or excision of the lesion. Depending on the type, skin cancer is relatively easy to treat with early detection. Also, there are in developing artificial intelligence applications that allow a high degree of accuracy in diagnosing images of skin lesions.