Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. Melanoma, which is a more serious form of skin cancer, is also on the rise. Skin cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow out of control. Most skin cancers are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or tanning beds.
Skin Cancer and Melanoma Cancer Treatment in Tucson, AZ
What is Skin Cancer and Melanoma Cancer?
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. It occurs when skin cells are damaged, for example, by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or sunbeds. The main types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are usually non-life-threatening but can be disfiguring if not treated.
Melanoma is less common than the other types of skin cancer but is more likely to spread to other parts of the body and be life-threatening. Anyone can get skin cancer, but it is more common in people with fair skin, who have a lot of moles or freckles, or who have a family history of the condition. Protecting your skin from UV radiation is the best way to reduce your risk of developing skin cancer.
Types of Skin Cancer and Melanoma Cancer
Melanoma skin cancer can grow and destroy surrounding tissue. It can also spread to other areas of the body. There are four types of melanoma skin cancer – superficial spreading, nodular, lentigo maligna, and acral lentiginous.
- Superficial spreading melanoma – Superficial spreading melanoma horizontally expands (known as radial growth) along the surface of the skin. Additionally, it can start to grow vertically down into the skin. This type of cancer is mostly flat and thin (less than 1 mm in thickness), has an unclear border, and has varying colors such as red, blue, brown, black, grey, or white. In some cases, superficial spreading melanoma begins from a mole that is already present in the body.
- Nodular melanoma – Nodular melanoma develops inside the skin and spreads downward. It grows and spreads faster than other types of melanoma skin cancer. It is a pedunculated growth that sticks out from the skin (polypoid). The development can be spherical (pedunculated) or roundish (pendulous). It is typically black, although it might also be red, pink, or bluish in color.
- Lentigo maligna melanoma – A lentigo maligna melanoma is a plaque-like tan or brown area that has an uneven perimeter. It becomes darker as it develops and has a variety of tones of brown or black. It is frequently caused by an in situ tumor known as lentigo maligna, which is an early form of skin growth that occurs only in the upper or outer layer (epidermis) of the skin (lentigo)
- Acral lentiginous melanoma – Acral lentiginous melanoma is most prevalent in persons of African, Asian, and Hispanic descent who have dark skin. It isn’t connected to sun exposure. It accounts for less than 5% of all melanoma skin malignancies.
- Mucosal lentiginous melanoma – This type of cancer originates from the thin lining that covers certain moist organs or body parts, (i.e. mucosa or mucous membrane) such as nasal passages, throat, rectum, and vagina. It is not caused by exposure to sunlight like most melanoma skin cancers; rather it’s usually diagnosed at a late stage when cancer has already spread rapidly.
- Intraocular melanoma – This is the most common type of eye cancer that starts in the eye.
- Desmoplastic melanoma – It develops in the dermis, or layer of connective tissue that surrounds the mucosa, or in the submucosa. It tends to develop down into the skin. Desmoplastic melanoma is generally found on the head, neck, upper back, and areas of the body with a mucosa.
What are the symptoms of Skin Cancer and Melanoma Cancer?
The most significant warning sign of melanoma is a new spot on the skin or a change in size, shape, or color on an existing one. A spot that appears to be different from all of the other spots on your skin (known as the ugly duckling sign) is also important. If you have any of these signs, see a doctor right away.
The ABCD rule is another indication of melanoma’s typical symptoms. Keep an eye out for any of the following characteristics:
- Asymmetry: One side of a mole or birthmark is different from the other.
- Border: The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred..
- Color: The variation in color isn’t uniform, and it might have various hues of brown or black, as well as pink, red, white, or blue patches.
- Diameter: The spot is larger than 6 millimeters across (about ¼ inch – the size of a pencil eraser), although melanomas can sometimes be smaller.
- Evolving: The mole is growing, changing size or form, or acquiring a different color. Some melanomas don’t follow these standards. It’s critical to inform your doctor if you notice any alterations in the skin or new moles that appear unusual when compared to the rest of your moles.
Some other warning signs are:
- A wound that will not close
- The spread of pigment from the edge or border of a spot into the skin surrounding it.
- The color has changed, and there is now a new swelling or redness outside the mole’s border.
- Itchiness, pain, or feeling tender are all sensations that may change.
- If you notice your mole changing in surface – such as scaliness, oozing, or bleeding – or if it begins to take on a lump-like appearance, consult a doctor.
It’s also important to take your current state of health and any associated symptoms into account before jumping in headfirst. Make sure to inform your doctor if there are any sections that concern you and request him or her to look at any areas that are difficult for you to see. It’s sometimes difficult for physicians to tell the difference between melanoma and a common mole, even when they have seen hundreds of them.
How is Skin Cancer and Melanoma cancer diagnosed?
A biopsy of the suspicious skin region, known as a lesion, is the only method for a doctor to know if it is cancer in melanoma. A biopsy involves obtaining a tiny sample of tissue for examination in a laboratory. The specialist may recommend additional procedures to aid in the diagnosis and determine the tumor’s overall stage.
There are four stages of Skin Cancer and Melanoma cancer:
The stage number is determined after TNM categories are established. Less disease progression is indicated by a lower stage number.
Stage 0 means that the cancer is localized or has not spread
- Stage 0 – Melanoma is a skin cancer that forms in the outermost layer of skin and has not yet spread to deeper tissues. This noninvasive stage is also called melanoma in situ.
- Stage I – A cutaneous malignant melanoma is 1 millimeter or less in Breslow depth and may or may not be ulcerated. It’s invasive, but it’s still confined to a single layer of skin. If they aren’t ulcerated and measure less than 0.8 mm, stage IA invasive tumors are considered early and thin.
Intermediate or high-risk melanomas
Tumors may be smaller and localized, but they can also have characteristics like ulceration that suggest they are more likely to spread.
- Stage II – High-risk intermediate melanomas are tumors that go deeper than 1 mm and may or may not have ulcerated. Even though they have not metastasized yet, the potential to do so is high, which is why doctors often recommend a sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) to see if melanoma cells have spread into the nearby lymph nodes. Melanomas thicker than 4.0 mm also come with a very high risk of metastasizing; any ulceration moves them into stage II’s higher subcategory. Given the amount of danger involved, physicians tend to suggest more intensive treatments for these patients.
Metastasis is an infection or spread of cancer from one site to another. There are several subdivisions within each stage.
- Stage III – Tumors have either progressed to the local lymph nodes or more than 2 cm away from the original tumor site through a lymph vessel. However, they have not reached the local lymph nodes yet. The thickness of the tumor is no longer relevant in determining its stage. To see if the tumors have affected nearby lymph nodes, doctors palpate them—meaning they feel for enlargements. If any are present, then that node is removed and tested for melanoma cells. Even if no palpable enlarged nodes are found, there may still be evidence of melanoma in smaller ones
- Stage IV – The cancer has progressed to body areas that are further away, such as the lymph nodes, organs, or most frequently the lungs, liver, brain, bone and gastrointestinal tract. The two main ways to determine how advanced stage IV melanoma is by looking at where the distant tumors are located and whether there are elevated lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) levels present. LDH is an enzyme that helps turn sugar into energy; so when there are high levels found in blood or body fluids it means more damage has been done.
Depending on the features of the primary tumor and the places where it has spread, each step is broken down into lower and higher risks. Cancer staging is a difficult and overwhelming task. If you’ve been diagnosed, ask your doctor to break down your stage in a way you can comprehend.
What are the treatments for Skin Cancer and Melanoma cancer?
Depending on how progressed the cancer is and other conditions, possible treatments could be:
- Surgery – The most common treatment for melanomas is surgery, and it usually cures early-stage malignant melanomas.
- Immunotherapy – Immunotherapy invigorates your natural immune response to target and eliminate cancer cells. It can be used as a standalone treatment or in conjunction with other melanoma treatments.
- Targeted therapy drugs – The anti-pigmentation drugs that have been approved thus far target features of melanoma cells that distinguish them from normal ones. Targeted medications, on the other hand, target elements of melanoma cells that make them special.
- Chemotherapy – Chemo is a type of chemotherapy that destroys cancer cells. The drugs are typically injected into a vein or taken by mouth as a pill, and they are absorbed through the body before reaching all areas. They target cancer cells that have already spread outside the skin and travel through the blood to all areas of the body.
- Radiation therapy – Radiation therapy works by bombarding cancer cells with high-energy rays or particles, which effectively kill them.
What are the side effects of Skin Cancer and Melanoma cancer treatment?
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, and melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. Both can be treated effectively if caught early. However, treatment can also cause side effects. Common side effects of skin cancer treatment include fatigue, nausea, and vomiting. More serious side effects can include infection, bleeding, and nerve damage.
Melanoma treatment can also cause side effects, though they are generally less severe than those associated with skin cancer treatment. Side effects of melanoma treatment can include fatigue, itching, and swelling. In rare cases, melanoma treatment can cause inflammation of the liver or lungs. As with any type of cancer treatment, discussing the risks and potential side effects with your doctor before beginning treatment is important.
What is the role of radiation therapy in Skin Cancer and Melanoma Cancer?
The majority of patients with melanoma on the skin do not require radiation therapy, although it may be beneficial in certain situations.
- If surgery is not an option for some reason, doctors might advocate treating early-stage melanomas.
- An uncommon type of melanoma known as desmoplastic melanoma can be treated with radiation therapy after surgery.
- Radiation may be used after surgery in the region where lymph nodes have been removed, especially if many of the nodes were filled with cancer cells. This is done to try and lower the chance that the disease will return.
- Radiation therapy can be used to kill melanoma cells that have returned after surgery, whether they are in the skin or lymph nodes. It may also help treat cancer that has spread distant from the original tumor site.
- Radiation therapy is commonly used to alleviate symptoms brought on by the spread of the melanoma, particularly to the brain or bones. Palliative radiation treatment is a type of treatment intended to help patients feel better. Although palliative radiation therapy isn’t expected to cure the disease, it may aid in shrinking or slowing its growth for a while to help manage some of the symptoms.
What is the prognosis for someone with Skin Cancer and Melanoma cancer?
Invasive melanoma of the skin affects an estimated 99,780 persons in the United States this year (57,180 men and 42,600 women). Worldwide, it is estimated that there will be 324,635 diagnosed with melanoma in 2020. In the United States, melanoma is the fifth most common malignancy among males. It is also the fifth most prevalent malignancy among females. Melanoma incidence occurs 20 times more frequently in White people than in Black individuals. The average age at which a patient receives their diagnosis is 65 years old. More women than men are diagnosed with melanoma before they reach 50 years old.
Although melanoma is most common in older people, it can develop in younger people too. In fact, it’s one of the most frequent cancers diagnosed in young adults below 30 years old. According to 2020 data estimates, there will be around 2 400 cases of melanoma diagnoses in 15-29-year-olds.
The number of people diagnosed with melanoma was rising for decades until 2005 when it started to decrease by about 1% every year in those younger than 50. In adults 50 and up, the rates flattened out starting in 2014 but still depended on age.
Between 2007 and 2016, the annual decrease in the rate of melanoma diagnosis among people aged 15 to 19 was 6%, according to statistics from the American Cancer Society. During this time period, there was a 3% yearly decrease in the number of individuals diagnosed with melanoma.
The number of people diagnosed with melanoma remained constant for women in their thirties, while it decreased slightly for men. One reason for the drop in the incidence of melanoma among younger persons is an increase in sun-protection behaviors and a reduction in indoor tanning.
Risk Factors for Skin Cancer and Melanoma Cancer
Besides skin cancer, melanoma is one of the most common types of cancer. However, there are many things that affect a person’s chance of developing it. Although some risk factors don’t directly cause cancer, they might influence its development. It’s important to be aware of these risks so you and your doctor can make more informed decisions about your lifestyle and health care choices.
The following are examples of things that may raise someone’s risk for melanoma:
- Exposure to sunlight
- Indoor tanning
- Fair skin
- Family history
- Familial melanoma
- Inherited conditions
- Race or ethnicity
- Weakened or suppressed immune system
How can you reduce your risk of getting Skin Cancer and Melanoma cancer?
There are many different causes of cancer. Researchers are still looking into what elements cause melanoma, as well as potential solutions. Despite the fact that there is no proven method to prevent melanoma totally, you may be able to reduce your danger. For more information about your personal risk of cancer, speak with your healthcare provider.
People of all ages are significantly less likely to develop skin cancer when they avoid indoor tanning and reduce sun exposure. This is especially important for people who have other risk factors for melanoma.
You can reduce your risk of skin cancer by wearing sunscreen on a daily basis. Sunburn is caused by UV radiation that penetrates the skin and causes DNA damage, which can lead to malignant melanoma. To avoid sunburn, follow these steps:
- Try to stay out of the sun between 10 AM and 4 PM.
- Wear sun-protective clothing, such as a wide-brimmed hat that covers the face, neck, and ears. Fabric with a UV protection factor (UPF) may provide additional protection. Sunglasses that are UV-protective are also suggested.
- Use a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 and broad-spectrum sunscreen year-round to protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Reapply 1 ounce of sunscreen to your entire body every 2 hours or after heavy sweating or immersion in water.
- It is best to stay out of the sun when trying to relax and have fun.
- Sun lamps, tanning devices, and tanning salons should not be used.
- Check your skin on a regular basis.
We are here to help
A lung cancer diagnosis can be unthinkable, scary, and very confusing. We know this because we have helped many patients through it. You are not alone. Our well-qualified team of oncologists will put you at ease and ensure that you receive the best tailored treatment possible.
We want to ensure that you have the best chance possible at a full recovery, so we’ll create a treatment plan tailored specifically for you. This might include surgery, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy–or some combination of these methods. If questions or concerns come up along the way, please don’t hesitate to give us a call.
We know this is a difficult time for you, and we are here to help.