The skin is the largest organ in the human body. As an organ, it performs functions of protection and control of body temperature, in addition to being the organ of the sense of touch.

The skin can be the settlement of diseases such as cancer, bacterial and viral infections, as well as injuries from trauma and burns.

Skin cancer

The skin cancer is a tumor cell formation causes changes in the skin and to be serviced in time, and that can extend and invade other parts of the body.

The skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. It is estimated that around 200,000 cases are diagnosed annually worldwide.

The main risk factor that produces the mutation and proliferation of skin cells is exposure to ultraviolet rays (either by sun exposure or radiation inside a tanning bed), in addition to other predisposing factors such as having a fair complexion, tobacco and alcohol consumption and low intake of fruits and vegetables.

The most common types of skin cancer are basal cell and squamous cell, followed by melanoma.

Symptoms of skin cancer

The proliferation of malignant cells in the skin always generates changes in the appearance of the skin, so skin cancer is a type of tumor that can be diagnosed early if the person consults the doctor as soon as they notice these changes.

The symptoms of skin cancer are: appearance of lesions with suspicious characteristics such as asymmetry and color changes; Accelerated growth of pre-existing moles, bleeding skin lesions, presence of sores that do not heal over time, shiny or opaque plaques, birth of moles or scab lesions with rapid growth on the eyelids, soles and palms, among others.

The American Academy of Dermatology suggests that to evaluate the skin organ the so-called ABCDE of the skin should be followed, which consists of:

  • A: Asymmetry. Tumor lesions are not uniform in their extension, and may be of different colors and shapes on one side with respect to the other. They can even cause pain or bleeding in a single segment of the tumor.
  • B: The edges of cancerous lesions are irregular, spiculate (the shape of spines around the lesion) or wavy.
  • C: The skin cancer may be of different colors: red, brown, blue, white or black, pitch varying in the extent of injury.
  • D: Diameter. Lesions that measure more than 10 mm in diameter are striking, although there are some skin cancers, such as punctate melanomas that can be up to 2mm in size.
  • E: Evolution. Cancer lesions of the skin grow over time, and can also change their characteristics over time. This characteristic applies to moles that can vary over time, becoming suspicious lesions.

Other warning signs are: bleeding, itching, pain and the appearance of hairs in previously existing moles.

What are the alternatives to medical treatment?

The treatment indicated by the oncologist will depend on the stage (that is, the extent of the disease) and the type of skin cancer reported by a diagnostic study called a biopsy, which is the taking of a sample from a segment or the entire tumor. plus, the margins of the lesion.

Generally, in the early stages, skin cancer treatmen is surgical, removing the tumor, plus an additional segment of healthy skin to remove as many of the tumor cells as possible.

There are some types of skin cancer so small that with the taking of biopsy, by means of simple excision or with Mohs surgery (which is the resection in layers of the tumor) they are already completely removed. Only after performing a biopsy other techniques for resection of small tumors are: cryosurgery (which freezes the lesion with liquid nitrogen and destroys abnormal tissue), curettage and electrodesiccation (extraction with a curette and burns with an electrode) and laser surgery (which uses a laser light to cut the tissue).

In some stages, it is necessary to use other treatments to avoid the risk of recurrence (the tumor reappears). In these cases, there are options such as radiotherapy, photodynamic therapy (which works by chemically marking cancer cells and destroying them by chemical activation after the application of lasers), chemotherapy and immunotherapy.

Chemotherapy prevents the replication of tumor cells and will depend on the histological type of cancer. For example, for basal cell cancer, topical 5-fluoracil is used. Unlike other types of cancer, chemotherapy is not usually taken or injected, but is topical, cream or lotion, directly treating the area of ​​the tumor lesion.

As for immunotherapy, it is used intravenously or topically in certain types and stages of cancer. It consists of applying a therapy such as interferon alpha, interleukin 2 and imiquimod, in order to stimulate the cells of the immune system to destroy tumor cells.

Despite the multiple therapeutic options, the dermatologist, together with the oncologist, will select the best treatment for each case.

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