Incidence of skin cancers has been increasing since the last few decades worldwide. Non Melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) is the commonest variety of cutaneous malignancy. Conventional wisdom has it that the incidence of all varieties of skin cancers is lower among Indians due to the protective effects of melanin. This article by Dr. Mohanan Nair, who is a Specialist in Pain and Palliative Medicine, gives a detailed analysis on Skin Cancer.
What is skin cancer? It is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. It occurs when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells (most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds) triggers mutations, or genetic defects, that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumours.
Skin cancer develops primarily on areas of sun-exposed skin, including the scalp, face, lips, ears, neck, chest, arms and hands, and on the legs in women. But it can also form on areas that rarely see the light of day — your palms, beneath your fingernails or toenails, and your genital area.
Skin cancer affects people of all skin tones, including those with darker complexions. When melanoma occurs in people with dark skin tones, it’s more likely to occur in areas not normally exposed to the sun, such as the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
Forms of Skin Cancer
The most common forms of skins cancer are Squamous cell Carcinoma (SCC), Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) and Melanoma. BCC & SCC are grouped as now Melanoma Skin Cancer (NMSC). While Melanoma represents less than 5% of the cases, it is the cause of more than 70% of death attributable to skin cancer each year.
In squamous cell skin cancers, the tumours arise from a normal cell in the top layer of the skin, the epidermis. As with basal cell cancers, these cells are prevented from growing wildly by genetically controlled factors. When there is an alteration in the genes that regulate these cells, the control is lost and skin cancers start to grow. In many instances, the genes are altered by sunlight exposure.
(Subscribe to read more on this expert article from the April 2016 issue of Safety Messenger Magazine)