We have carried out a small survey to answer the most frequent questions about skin cancer.
What are the first symptoms of skin cancer?
The most common initial symptoms are the appearance of a small lump and changes in the texture and / or color of the skin. These are symptoms that tend to be nonspecific and persist without additional signs. These become evident when they begin to enlarge or have recurrent irritation, stinging, pain or bleeding and to form ulceration that does not heal. These changes, if they persist for more than 3 weeks, deserve a professional consultation.
(We have already discussed it on the main page at this point: What are the first symptoms, and how does it start?)
Is skin cancer deadly? If so, what is the death rate?
Both basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma of the skin tend to be slow-growing cancers and, therefore, allow early intervention to resolve them without major consequences.
- Basal cell carcinoma tends to be very slow growing compared to other cancers and tends to only invade locally. They rarely produce metastases. This type of cancer can rarely cause death.
- Squamous cell carcinoma tends to have a slightly more aggressive behavior than basal cell carcinoma. Although it is also slow growing, it tends to metastasize at a distance earlier than basal cell. Commonly in the lymph nodes in the area of the primary tumor. This type of cancer, if not treated properly, can eventually compromise the life of the patient.
- Lastly, melanoma is the least common of skin cancers, tends to spread early, and can be fatal.
Can it be prevented?
Cancer of the skin can be considered a preventable disease. As with most cancers, the causes are largely epigenetic (beyond the genes). Some of these factors could be adequately addressed and help prevent the development of skin cancer. These might be:
- Excessive sun exposure, particularly in those with fair skin who tend to burn easily without acquiring a tan.
- Pro-inflammatory and antioxidant-deficient diets.
- Chronic exposure to certain toxins such as arsenic.
Several published studies have analyzed these aspects of the disease. For example: a 2015 study showed that in at-risk patients, supplementation with nicotinamide or niacinamide (a form of vitamin B3) with 500 mg twice daily for a 12-month period reduced by a 23% the appearance of new cancers, compared with those who received placebo.
(Previously they were already commented on: What are the risk factors for the development of skin cancer?)
¿Is skin cancer contagious?
Cancer is not a contagious disease. For this reason, skin cancers are not contagious. The only circumstance in which a cancer can be passed from one person to another would be in the case of an organ transplant in which the transplanted organ contains a hidden cancer that continues to grow in the recipient.
Can it be found in cats and dogs?
Basal cell or basal cell tumors are one of the most common skin tumors in dogs and cats. Of these tumors, about 10% are malignant, that is, basal cell carcinomas. These pets can also develop squamous cell carcinomas, although these tend to appear in the oral cavity rather than on the skin.
In fact, broadly speaking, animals can get cancers just like humans. The discovery of the anti-cancer effect of BEC had its origin precisely in squamous-cell carcinomas that commonly occur in Hereford cattle in Australia. The knowledge of Australian farmers shows that these tumors could improve with the application of a paste made from a wild fruit, solanum linnaeanum. The study of this plant by Dr Bill Cham at the University of Queensland led to the discovery of BEC. There are publications showing the effective use of BEC formulations in the treatment of cancers in animals.
Can skin cancer occur on the head? And in the ear?
Skin cancers can appear anywhere on the skin; this includes the scalp. With baldness, the risk of skin cancer in the bald head increases since the area is more exposed to the sun.
In the same way, other areas commonly exposed to the sun, such as the tip of the nose or the upper part of the ears, are areas where skin cancers appear with some frequency.
Can it be given in children?
Although this is very rare, cases of skin cancers in children and adolescents have been reported in the medical literature.
How to differentiate a skin cancer from a mole?
Cancerous skin lesions generally have a different appearance from moles. Typically, benign moles are lesions with regular borders and pigmentation and remain stable, without symptoms or significant changes over time. This general appreciation warrants some clarification: Pigmented lesions with irregular borders or with variable pigmentation may be a sign of malignant melanoma or of a type of basal cell carcinoma known as pigmented BCC
Given the doubt, it is best to consult a professional since, sometimes, the only way to diagnose with certainty the type of injury that affects a person is through a biopsy. That is, a sample of the lesion that is analyzed under the microscope.
If you have finished reading the Frequently Asked Questions about skin cancer and want to keep learning more: What treatments are available for skin cancers?