Skin Cancer Toronto
Skin cancer, also known as skin carcinoma, is the most common of all cancers. One in five people, or 20% of the population, will develop skin cancer at some point in their life. Although the majority of skin cancers are not very dangerous and highly curable with various forms of treatment, a small number are more difficult to treat and may require major surgery. Early diagnosis and treatment allows for a higher cure rate.
Sun exposure is a major factor in up to 90% of skin cancer cases. This means that prevention is one of the most effective ways to avoid skin cancer.
Skin cancers are generally divided into two categories; melanoma and non-melanoma tumours. Non-melanoma cancers are by far the most common, and include basal cell and squamous cell cancer.
Basal Cell Cancer
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer. It usually grows slowly and originates from the deep basal cell layer of the epidermis (the skin). Since sun exposure is one of the most important risk factors, most basal cell carcinomas appear on parts of the skin that are frequently exposed to sunlight. These areas include the face, ears, chest, scalp, hands, shoulders, and back. Another major risk factor in the development of basal cell cancer is skin complexion. Fitzgerald Type I (white skin that does not tan, and reddish hair) and Type II (white skin that tans somewhat, and blond hair) are at greater risk.
Basal cell cancers are not generally alarming in appearance, but look similar to a new mole or sore. Most can be treated relatively easily with minor surgery, shaving, topical agents, or by deep freezing the affected spot. A small minority of basal cell cancers will however aggressively invade and destroy surrounding tissues. Because of this, early assessment and treatment by a specialist is very important. Dr. Gantous or your dermatologist may advise you to undergo a diagnostic biopsy or to simply remove the suspicious growth as a precaution.
Squamous Cell Cancer
Squamous cell carcinoma is more aggressive in nature than basal cell carcinoma, and it originates from the top layer of the epidermis. Approximately 20% of all skin cancers are squamous cell carcinomas. Excessive sun exposure does play a role in the development of squamous cell cancers just as it does with basal cell cancers, however squamous cell cancers can also develop in scars or chronic wounds. It is more invasive and has a higher risk of spreading to lymph nodes or even distant parts of the body.
Melanoma is the least common type of skin cancer, but is more dangerous and difficult to treat. It originates from the pigment producing melanocyte cells that give us our skin colour. Most malignant (highly invasive) melanomas are pigmented lesions with fairly characteristic findings. On rare occasions, skin melanomas may appear without the characteristic darker pigmentation and are then called amelanotic (“without melanin/pigment”) melanomas. Along with the trunk and legs, the face and neck are some of the most frequent locations for melanoma to appear. If caught in the early stages of growth, malignant melanoma is curable, however it is known for its ability to spread (or metastasize) quickly to lymph nodes and distant sites in the body. The likelihood for metastasis increases with the size and thickness of the skin melanoma. Early recognition and treatment is vitally important due to the risk of metastatic melanomas quickly becoming incurable.