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Facts About Skin Cancer

written by: Victoria Trix • edited by: DaniellaNicole • updated: 8/12/2010

As more and more Americans are being diagnosed with varying forms of skin cancer, the need for clinical terminology definition is becoming more important. These are the facts you need to know about skin cancer.

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    Too many people are receiving diagnosis of skin cancer that they do not understand, either assuming that a serious condition is routine or mistaking a benign diagnosis for something life threatening. Most of the confusion lies in the terminology where there are two types of skin conditions, one being malignant and the other benign, but both are clinically referred to as skin cancer. The concept of a non-malignant cancer is the oxymoron that continues to confuse most patients. The following synopsis of skin conditions, required treatments and preventative measures will help to clarify the murky nature of dermatological diagnosis.

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    Prevention of Skin Cancer

    Estimating that over 85% of skin cancers are caused by overexposure to sunlight, the American Medical Association has recommending the daily use of sunscreen, even during winter months when snow reflected sunlight is even dangerous. Also advised is the wearing of protective clothing, including a hat and sunglasses at all times when outdoors, and staying out of the sun altogether between the hours of 10am and 3pm daily. It is important to note that lip protection, containing an SPF factor of 15 or above is often neglected, and skin cancer on the top of the feet is emerging as the fastest growing location of skin cancerous lesions. Dermatological evidence shows that use of skin moisturizers containing Vitamins E, D and Niacin will actually reverse the skin damage caused by the sun, and thereby prevent the onset of some non-malignant skin cancers.

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    Melanoma

    Skin cancer cases are increasing faster than any other form of cancer, primarily due to environmental changes in the atmosphere, which are making the radiation levels increase dramatically. Melanoma is the term given to malignant forms of skin cancer, which are the least common, but also the most serious and can lead to death.

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    Basal Cell Carcinoma

    The most common skin cancers are non-malignant and are named Basal Cell Carcinomas. This type of cell is often thick tissue which grows and is caused by large amounts of sun exposure. Basal Cell Carcinomas tend not to spread to other organs, although they can do extensive tissue damage and the removal may require additional plastic surgery in extreme cases.

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    Diagnosis and Treatment of Skin Cancer

    A dermatologist visually identifies irregular moles as potential skin cancer by their shape, color, elevation from the skin surface and irregularity of edge. Skin cancer lesions, whether malignant or not, are surgically removed under local anesthetic including the surrounding tissue to prevent reoccurence of the cancer lesion in or around the same area. After removal, a small mole, which would have been removed in its entirety, will be biopsied to determine whether the lesion was actually skin cancer or just a mole. If the suspicious mole is large, a pre-surgery biopsy will be conducted to determine if the entire mole must be removed. Skin cancer is typically localized, and no chemotherapy treatments are required after removal of the growth.

    While there are two basic forms of skin cancer, only one, Melanoma, is malignant and can be transferred to other organs and tissues in the body. Early detection is the key to successful skin cancer treatments, as well as taking all preventative measures.

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    Sources

    WebMD.com from the article: What is melanoma? Last Updated: January 11, 2007

    Melanoma.com from the articles: What Is Melanoma? Diagnosing Melanoma and Melanoma Prevention Publication date unknown