Most people believe that melanoma is the only type of skin cancer, and we understand why. Melanoma is very popular, mostly because it’s the deadliest of all skin cancers. In reality, there are 3 skin cancer types and melanoma is the rarest of them all.
With melanoma or any other kind of skin cancer, the sun has been found to play a huge role. When we say the sun, we mean the UVA and UVB radiations which emanate from the sun. But it’s not the sun alone that releases these deadly rays.
“Other artificial sources such as solariums and sunbeds also radiate the UVR and people who have used a solarium have a greatly increased risk for skin cancer” explains Jane Homberger, a registered nurse and the founder of Skin Smart Australia.
What’s the Difference Between UVA and UVB Rays?
While both are harmful and should be avoided at all costs, Ultraviolet Ray A (UVA) and Ultraviolet Ray B (UVB) are not the same. The “UVA rays can penetrate deeply into the dermis” Jane says. In other words, they have a longer length of ray and are mostly responsible for skin ageing. UVB is shorter. But, it’s also fully capable of causing harm to the superficial layers of the skin.
Types of Skin Cancer
Basal Cell Carcinoma
This is the most common of all skin cancer types, but thankfully, it is the least deadly. BCC is mainly caused by UV radiation from sun exposure. Little wonder why this skin cancer mostly affects areas such as the chest, face, shoulders, and back—they’re the most exposed to the sun.
This cancer type often manifests either as a flat pink scaly area or a raised pink pearly nodules. It also tends to not spread past the singular affected area. However, it does eat deep into the affected spot and can cause serious damage if not treated fast.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Like Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC for short) tends to also settle on sun-exposed areas of the body. However, it is characterized by a painful scaly lesion and can spread across various parts of the body. This is why treating this cancer as early as possible is key.
Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. Because it spreads so rapidly, it is very difficult to treat. Melanoma evolves from the cell that produces melanin— the pigment that gives our skin its colour. Jane states that “melanoma rises in an existing mole, or it can grow as a new lesion. Just because a person had had a mole all their life doesn’t mean it can’t become melanoma when they’re adults”. Contrary to popular belief, melanoma can affect anyone at any age. Unlike BCC and SCC, it can grow on any part of the body, irrespective of whether or not the area is constantly exposed to the sun.
Factors that Determine Survival from Skin Cancer
- Early Diagnosis. The earlier the cancer is diagnosed and treated, the better.
- Genetic predisposition
- Specific Cancer Diagnosis.
The risk of skin cancer seems to be on the increase, especially in people under the age of 40. Knowing the warning signs of skin cancer can help ensure that cancerous changes are detected and treated before cancer manages to spread. It all starts with being aware of any change in your skin including hidden areas like your toes and scalp. Pay extra attention to your moles and seek medical attention the minute you notice an abnormality.