Skin cancer remains the most prevalent form of cancer in the United States and worldwide. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, non-epithelial skin cancers make up for at least 7% of all skin cancer cases. In 2009, more than 60,000 U.S. citizens were diagnosed with melanomas, while almost 10,000 died from the disease (CDC). Today’s medicine possesses vast resources and opportunities for cancer treatment, but prevention remains the most effective method of dealing with cancer. By simply avoiding sun in the middle of the day and using sunscreen methods, adults can minimize the risks of skin cancer and the damaging consequences of cancer treatment for their health.
Skin Cancer: Definition and Features
According to the Mayo Clinic, skin cancer is the abnormal skin cell growth which, in most cases, results from exposure to the sun. The three main types of skin cell include: squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and melanoma (Mayo Clinic). The causes of skin cancer are numerous and complex, but the disease is always caused by DNA mutations in skin cells (Mayo Clinic). These mutations lead to the rapid growth of skin cells, which cannot be controlled (Mayo Clinic). It is interesting to note that researchers have gone quite far in their analysis of skin cancer and its risk factors. In their primary study, Han et al. measured the relationship between telomere length and skin cancer risks (415). “Telomere length plays a critical role in tumorigenesis” (Han et al. 415). This is why the researchers decided to focus on the differences in telomere length in several groups of patients with melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and basal cell carcinoma (Han et al. 415). Han et al. discovered that shorter telomeres had fewer moles, which also decreased the risks of melanoma (415). At the same time, shorter telomeres increased the risk of basal cell carcinoma (Han et al. 415). These results could help medical professionals identify and address possible skin cancer risks, but they still require further validation, before they become an official preventive approach.
Skin cancer develops on the areas, which are constantly or regularly exposed to the sun. These include but are not limited to lips, scalp, chest, ears, hands, and arms (Mayo Clinic). In some cases, skin cancer can develop on the areas that never see the sun, such as toenails and even genitals (Mayo Clinic). Depending on the type of skin cancer, it can manifest as a flat lesion, a waxy bump, a flat lesion with a crusted surface or a mole that constantly changes its size and color (Mayo Clinic). Still, one of the most problematic is facial skin cancer. Due to fair skin and excessive exposure to the sun, human face is particularly susceptible to the negative environmental effects, which increase the risks of cancer (Mayo Clinic).
Facial Skin Cancer: Treatment and Prognosis
Avril et al. write that basal skin carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer among white people, accounting for more than 70% of all skin cancer cases (100). The most affected are usually the neck and head (Avril et al. 100). Those who have been diagnosed with facial skin cancer have access to several treatment modalities. First, radiotherapy is one of the most popular and effective treatment modalities, when it comes to skin cancer (Avril et al. 100). Second, patients with facial skin cancer can be assigned to excisional surgery, electrodessication, cryosurgery, and curettage, depending on the severity of the disease and other health factors (Avril et al. 100). Yet, one of the latest and most promising ways to deal with facial skin cancer is so-called Mohs surgery.
Mohs surgery is believed to be “the gold standard for the excision of cutaneous tumors”, because it minimizes the loss of normal tissues and, at the same time, increases the cure rates (Heller et al. 550). Mohs surgery allows excising and controlling all deep resection and peripheral margins, while also improving orientation and enhancing re-excision of the smallest skin tumor extensions (Vuyk & Lohuis 265). Apart from its physiological benefits, Mohs surgery also improves patients’ psychosocial wellbeing and quality of life. Surgical excision scars after this type of surgery are small and can become almost invisible. Still, medical professionals should not forget that, when applied to histologically aggressive and huge face tumors, Mohs surgery can result in considerable appearance defects (Heller et al. 551). Disfigurement following the surgery can have detrimental psychological effects on patients. All these difficulties suggest that it is better to prevent skin cancer than to cure it. Even in the presence of the most advanced medical techniques, skin cancer and the treatment procedures may have far-reaching implications for the quality of life, physical and emotional wellbeing.
Skin cancer is a complex disease caused by DNA mutations in skin cells. The latter usually emerge under the influence of continuous and damaging sun exposure. The current state of evidence provides rich information about the risks of skin cancer and available treatment modalities. Still, the success of the most advanced treatment models is not guaranteed. It is easier to prevent skin cancer than to face its negative impacts on physical health and emotional wellbeing.
Avril, M.F., A. Auperin, A. Marqulis, A. Gerbaulet, A., Duvillard, P., Benhamou, E., R. Chalon, J.Y. Chalon, J.Y. Petit, H. Sancho-Garnier, M. Prade, J. Bouzy & D. Chassagne. “Basal Cell Carcinoma of the Face: Surgery or Radiotherapy? Results of a Randomized Study.” British Journal of Cancer, 76.1 (1997): 100-106. Print.
CDC. “Skin Cancer Statistics.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010. Web.
Han, Jiali, Abrar A. Qureshi, Jennifer Prescott, Qun Guo, Li Ye, David J. Hunter & Immaculate De Vivo. “A Prospective Study of Telomere Length and the Risk of Skin Cancer.” Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 129.2 (2009): 415-421. Print.
Heller, Misha M., Tina Bhutani, Eric S. Lee & John Koo. “Psychological Issues Regarding Mohs Micrographic Surgery.” Mohs Micrographic Surgery. Ed.K. Nouri. Miami, FL: Springer, 2012, 549-559. Print.
Mayo Clinic. “Skin Cancer.” Mayo Clinic, n.d. Web. 2013.
Vuyk, H.D. & P.J. Lohuis. “Mohs Micrographic Surgery for Facial Skin Cancer.” Clinical Otolaryngology & Allied Sciences, 26.4 (2001): 265-273. Print.