SolveYourProblem Article Series: Skin Cancer
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Basal Cell Carcinomas (Skin Cancer)
- Causes, Symptoms, Treatments

Of the three major types of skin cancer - basal cell carcinoma is the most common. For some reason it seems to affect more men than women and its incidence increases with people over forty to fifty years of age. It definitely is focused amongst individuals who are lighter skinned and who have fair or red hair. and who have a tendency to burn when out in the sun too long.

The appearance of this particular skin cancer can take the form of a lump that is flesh colored or slightly red and can have a 'pearly' look to it. It can also appear as a pimple like growth that does not seem to heal. It can also be a small, red scaly patch. It is most often found on areas of the skin that have been exposed to the sun's UV rays - such as the face, neck, arms etc.

Around six weeks after it has appeared this lump will become ulcerated, its center being moist while it maintains a harder surrounding edge. Though a scab may form over it - it will then fall off, and it never truly heals.

The causes of this type of skin cancer are varied. Typically we think of it as being the result of some sort of exposure to a carcinogenic source. That source may be the sun's UV rays, either from constant exposure or having an excessive vulnerability due to having had a severe sunburn as a youth. There is also exposure to radiation from radiotherapy and some chemicals such as arsenic.

Another possible factor for some individuals is a genetic one. There are some syndromes that are inheritable such as xeroderma pigmentosa that is basically a fault in the DNA that affects the way a cell can repair itself. This is a condition that can be associated with people who have extensive freckling and who feel an extra sensitivity to the sun.

Having ulcerous wounds that come from an injury or another type of thermal burn and which have a difficult time healing may have a chance to develop this basal cell cancer. Or if an individual is for some reason immune suppressed - as an example there is immunosuppression used for recipients of certain transplants to help them accept the new organ - and it may leave them open to being susceptible to this carcinoma.

Treatment will depend on some factors such as: the size of the tumor and where it is located, the age of the person and whether this is a recurring cancer or an initial one.

Types of treatments that are open to someone with this type of cancer may vary but the doctor or dermatologist involved with first discuss with the patient what may be available. In some cases it may entail a simple surgical removal followed by a type of cauterization to seal the blood vessels surrounding the site and/or to kill off any remaining cancer cells in the area.

Ongoing research and progress is opening up the possibility of some types of basal cell carcinomas to be treated with new therapies and creams that would be less invasive. Currently if a tumor is on the larger size, recurrent, or located near vital sites such as an eye or nose there is a technique that is used called 'Moh's Technique' where a surgeon takes the time to shave off cancerous tissue one layer at a time, examining it for cancer until he reaches healthy tissue. This can spare damage done to healthy tissue.

This type of cancer is highly curable - especially when discovered in its early stages.

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