The term skin cancer usually refers to non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) as compared to melanoma cancer which is also a malignant growth originating in the skin.
The two most common forms are Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) and Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC). Both these tumours are related to cumulative sun exposure and most commonly present in an older population with a life-time’s history of sun exposure. With more of us spending an increasing amount of time outdoors and taking holidays abroad we are now seeing these tumours in patients in their 20's and 30's. Outdoor workers and people with fair complexions are particularly at risk.
Non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) presents as either a skin coloured lump, a scaling lesion, an erosion that will not heal or an ulcerated lesion. Any such lesion requires immediate assessment by a medical practitioner. Dermatologists are specifically trained to diagnose such lesions by looking at them and if there is any doubt by performing a biopsy.
A Dermatologist has a number of treatment options available to them which includes the use of special creams to kill the cancer cells, scraping the lesion away to the appropriate depth, cutting the lesion out, freezing the lesion with liquid nitrogen, using photodynamic therapy, carbon dioxide laser or occasionally radiotherapy. The choice of treatment will depend on the tumour type and the personal preference of the patient.
The number of cases of melanoma has increased significantly in recent years. Melanoma is one of the deadliest kinds of cancer that affects mainly the skin. As it appears on the outside of the body, early detection is very easy and curative measures can, therefore, be applied. Melanoma is a cancer of the pigment-producing cells and usually appears as pigmented lesions. However, there are melanomas that are not dark in colour and can only be diagnosed on biopsy. Most melanomas arise from the normal skin surface and some arise from abnormal moles.
Who belongs to the high-risk group?
Any moles that look irregular
The borders look blurred or jagged
C - Colour variation.
D – Diameter.
Larger than 6mm
E - Elevation or Evolution.
Any changes that occur over time should be noted and checked. Changes in colour (Darkening, loss of colour, new colours), decrease or increase in size/ thickness, changes in surrounding skin(e.g. redness, white spots, swelling), itchiness, sores, an odd sensation, bleeding moles. Newly appeared moles (in patients >25yrs) also need to be assessed by a specialist.
Mole mapping is the most advanced method for early diagnosis of skin cancer. The dermatologist takes pictures of suspicious moles and the machine can give scores of each of them. Additionally, overview images of the body are taken to localise the moles and find them again at follow-up visits. The mole images can be measured, analysed and stored in a digital database.
Medical Suite Building,
Arwyp Hospital, 22 Pine Avenue,
Kempton Park, Johannesburg.
Behind La Coline Commercial Centre,
Candos (close to hospital) Quatre Bornes