Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Cancer By The Numbers: Basal Cell Carcinoma

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My sister has skin cancer -- the basal cell variety. She has two spots, both on her chest, each one scheduled to be surgically removed in a few weeks. If it were me with this new diagnosis, I'm sure I'd be freaking out right about now, maybe because I've already had breast cancer and I tend to panic about any cancer or maybe just because I'm a worrier by nature. But my sister is taking her cancer news in stride, and I am too -- because now that I've done a little research, it seems this type of cancer is pretty easy to beat.

Here's a little refresher lesson on the skin: The skin is the largest organ in the body, and is made of three layers -- the epidermis (top layer), dermis (middle layer), and subcutis (deepest layer). For the purpose of this post, let's focus on the epidermis.

The epidermis has three layers -- an upper, middle, and a bottom layer. This bottom layer is comprised of basal cells. This is where basal cell cancer begins.

Skin cancers are divided into two groups -- melanomas and non-melanomas. Basal cell cancer is one of the most common forms of non-melanoma skin cancer. The other is squamous cell cancer. Basal cell cancers usually begin on areas exposed to the sun, such as the head or neck (or chest, in my sister's case) and while once found mostly on middle-aged and older people, it is now seen more and more on younger people, probably because they are spending more time in the sun without protecting their skin.

The Numbers

Skin cancers are the most common of all cancers, and it's estimated there are at least as many non-melanoma skin cancer cases found each year as all other cancers combined (about one million each year). Most of these cancers are basal cell and number about 800,000 to 900,000 annually. About three out every four skin cancers are basal cell carcinomas.

People do not typically die of basal cell cancer. About 1,000 to 2,000 people die of non-melanoma skin cancer each year, nearly all of them older and characterized by a lack of early treatment.

After treatment, basal cell carcinoma can return in the same place. New basal cell cancers can start on other places on the skin. Within five years of diagnosis, about 35 to 50 percent of patients develop a new skin cancer.

Risk Factors

Ultraviolet (UV) light is the major risk factor for skin cancer. Sunlight, tanning beds, and tanning booths account for most UV damage. Those who live in places with year-round, bright sunlight are most at risk -- the highest rate of skin cancer in the world in Australia -- and people with fair skin are more at risk than those with darker skin. Men are twice as likely as women to develop basal cell cancers, and exposure to chemicals may also increase risk. People who have received radiation treatment and anyone who has had one or more skin cancers are also at increased risk. Smoking is not a risk factor for this type of cancer -- but some rare skin conditions and HPV infection are.


It's easy -- Just limit UV exposure, protect your skin with clothing, wear a hat and sunglasses, slather on sunscreen, seek shade, protect children, and avoid harmful chemicals and you'll keep pretty darn safe.
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1 comment:

health watch center said...

Hello Tech Necta

Helpful and healthy blog to visit regularly...

I wanna add some skin cancer preventive measures

To prevent this type of skin cancer, you need to limit the exposure to UV light and protect your skin with clothing, wear sun glasses, avoid exposure to harmful chemicals and also protect your children from these things.

Minor surgeries can help to treat basal cell cancers. But surgeries can cause scars to develop at that place. The cells which cause cancers can be killed and frozen or by using a laser surgery they can be destroyed.