Skin Cancer

What Is Skin Cancer?

Skin Cancer

Skin is a protective layer that covers our whole body. It shields us against heat, sunlight, injury, and infection.

The uncontrolled growth of mutated cells in the skin is called skin cancer. It occurs when unrepaired DNA damage skin cells triggers mutations, or genetic defects, that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors. These cancer cells can potentially invade the neighbouring cells and tissues and at the later stages can also spread to distant organs. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer.

Anatomy Of Skin Cancer


Less common types of skin cancer

Skin Cancer Occurrence Rate in India

The exact incidence of skin cancer in India is not known. However, skin cancers constitute about 1-2% of all diagnosed cancers. The incidence of skin cancer in India is quite low when compared to western countries. Most of the cases being reported in India are squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma while the occurrence of non melanoma skin cancer is quite low among Asians.

What Are The General Symptoms Of Skin Cancer?

Different types of skin cancer shows different signs. Below mentioned are some of the symptoms that might indicate the presence of the disease but they do not necessarily ascertain the disease. However, if any of the symptoms is spotted then consulting a doctor is highly recommended.

Basal cell carcinoma:

Squamous cell carcinoma:

Melanoma signs and symptoms:

Other Symptoms:

What Are The General Causes Of Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer is associated to a number of causatives. However, many people with one or more risk factors never get cancer, while others who get cancer may have had few or no known risk factors.

Ultraviolet (UV) light exposure

One of the major risk factor for most skin cancers is high exposure to the sun. Tanning beds, lamps are another source of UV rays.


Having fair skin

Less pigment (melanin) in your skin provides less protection from damaging UV radiation.


Older age

The risk of getting basal and squamous cell skin cancers rises as people get older due to accumulated exposure to UV radiation. However, skin cancers are increasingly being found in younger individuals.


Male gender

Men are about twice as likely as women to have basal cell cancers


Exposure to chemicals

Certain chemicals, including Arsenic, coal tar, paraffin, and certain types of oil may also have an increased risk of skin cancer.


Increased Radiation exposure

Treatment with radiation can increase the risk for developing skin cancers in the exposed area.


Multiple or unusual moles

People who have many moles or abnormal moles called dysplastic nevi are at increased risk of skin cancer.


Severe sunburns in the past

Having had one or more blistering sunburns as a child or teenager increases your risk of developing skin cancer as an adult


Long-term or severe skin inflammation or injury

Skin damaged by some severe inflammatory skin diseases is more likely to develop skin cancers, although this risk is generally small.


Xeroderma pigmentosum (XP)

This very rare inherited condition reduces the ability of skin cells to repair DNA damage caused by sun exposure.


Basal cell nevus syndrome

(also known as nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome or Gorlin syndrome) – In this rare congenital (present at birth) condition, people develop many basal cell cancers over their lifetime.


Weakened immune system

People with weakened immune systems have a greater risk of developing skin cancer. This includes people living with HIV/AIDS and those taking immunosuppressant drugs after an organ transplant.


Human papilloma virus (HPV) infection

Infection with certain types of HPV, particularly those that affect the anal or genital area, may increase your skin cancer risks.



People who smoke are more likely to develop squamous cell skin cancer.


History of skin cancer


Can Skin Cancer Be Prevented?

The best ways to lower your risk of skin cancer are to avoid long exposure to intense sunlight and practice sun safety, with glares, hats, t-shirts and umbrellas. Wearing a good quality sun screen throughout the year also provides safety. Tanning beds and lamps should be avoided completely.

Regular, thorough skin examinations are also important, especially if there are a large number of moles or other risk factors. While this will not prevent skin cancer from developing, it may help to catch it early, when it can be treated more easily.

What Are The Stages Of Skin Cancer?

Non-melanoma skin cancers rarely spread and may not be staged. The chance that squamous cell carcinomas will spread is slightly higher and may be staged using the TNM System.

Survival Rates Of Skin Cancer?

Needless to say, if the skin cancer is detected while it is still in Stage I, survival rate is higher. The rate decreases progressively with the increase in stage. Stage III is considered critical, while stage IV is, more often than not, fatal.


5 year Survival Rate

Stage I A


Stage I B


Stage IIA


Stage IIB


Stage IIC


Stage IIIA


Stage IIIB


Stage IIIC


Stage IV


Can Skin Cancer Be Detected Early?

Being aware of the signs and symptoms definitely aids in its early detection. Some other methods of diagnosis are discussed below:

What Are The Treatments Available?

Based on the type and stage of the cancer and other factors, treatment options may include:

  • Surgery
  • Other forms of local therapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Systemic chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Chemotherapy

Treatment is based on the type of tumor and other factors, and often more than one type of treatment is used. Discuss all of your treatment options as well as their possible side effects with your treatment team to help make the decision that best fits your needs.


How Frequently Should One Visit Doctor For Early Diagnosis?

If you have any of the symptoms, please do visit the doctor. Also, a familial history or personal history of the disease commands a regular examination at least once a year for the disease.


How can I as a patient know it early?

If you feel any of the symptoms mentioned in the Symptoms section, you should definitely visit a doctor. Ignoring even a small indication might result in devastation. In early stages Skin cancer is highly curable but it gets complicated with passing time.