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Skin cancers in a nutshell

 
Skin cancer is the commonest type of cancer and affects two out of three Australians. Australians are also four times more at risk of developing the disease compared to other types of cancers. With such a high rate of incidence it pays to know more about this unfortunately common condition.
 
Firstly, it's important to remember that not all skin cancers are dangerous. In fact, early diagnosis of whatever type can see a very good chance of survival. With melanoma, for example, catching the disease early and seeking help sees a 90 and 94 percentage survival rate for Australian men and women respectively.
 
To understand the prognosis and appreciate the need for early diagnosis and treatment, you must look at the three main types of skin cancers that exist. There's basal cell skin cancer, squamous cell skin cancer and melanoma. Different subtypes follow for these three main types.
 
Basal cell: The basal cell is the deepest or lowest layer of the skin. When cancer invades it it's called basal cell carcinoma which is, incidentally, the commonest of the three. While it may appear to be serious, the disease rarely metastasizes or kills.
 
Basal cell skin cancer primarily targets areas of the body exposed to the sun like the face. Disfigurement is an issue because the cancer can invade surrounding tissue. So as mentioned, early diagnosis and relevant treatment is very important.
 
Squamous cell: This type affects the middle layer of the skin or the epithelial layer. It's typically found in areas that aren't exposed to the sun although fair skin people may see the disease showing itself in places exposed to sunlight.
 
Squamous cell skin cancer is more aggressive than basal cell skin cancer and, therefore, more dangerous. However, this second most common type of skin cancer is not as risky as melanoma which we'll be looking at next.
 
 
Melanoma: This is the type that conjures the most dread because although the rarest, it's the most aggressive which also means it spreads from the melanocytes to the blood and vital organs. It works fast too so early diagnosis and immediate treatment are absolutely vital.
 
Though melanoma is not common, it's one of the commonest types of skin cancers to affect Australia's youth so they must be educated about what changes to look for in their skin. Fortunately, melanoma is highly curable if detected early so regular trips to the dermatologist and visiting the doctor when changes in the skin are noticed may literally save lives.
 
Treatment for skin cancer can involve surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and biological therapy. Since no two cancer cases are exactly alike, treatment for one person's condition cannot be applied to another's without in-depth tests.
 
How to prevent skin cancer
 
Overexposure to sunlight is a cause of skin cancer though not the only one. Genetics plays a role as does frequent blistering sunburns, people with abnormal moles and precancerous skin lesions, a family history of skin cancer, exposure to dangerous substances like arsenic, weak immune system, and exposure to radiation treatment.
 
Sunscreen with an SPF of 50, wearing sunglasses meeting Australian standards, sun-protective clothing and a hat, being under a shade, and avoiding direct sunlight when the sun is at its strongest also help. Know that everyone can get skin cancer but not all do. And also bear in mind that the earlier the disease is detected, the higher your chances of beating it.
 
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