In the last issue of our Health Science News Page we discussed aspects of skin cancer and the damage caused by excessive sun exposure. The most common risk factor of non-melanoma skin cancer is excessive exposure sunlight. However, it is important to note that the non-melanoma skin cancers, basal and squamous cell carcinomas are not as lethal as melanoma which can also occur on areas of the skin not exposed to the sun. Sun exposure can cause free radical damage in the skin cells leading to DNA damage and skin ageing, and may eventually cause skin cancer, however, that is not the only risk factor.
With the arrival of summer people become acutely aware of sun exposure, skin cancers and the use of sunscreen. Worldwide, one in three diagnosed cancers is classified under skin cancer. Basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma are the most common forms of skin cancers, and malignant melanoma is the most fatal.
According to the American Cancer Society, it is estimated that nearly 9,500 people in the US are diagnosed with skin cancer every day and 161,790 new cases of melanoma are estimated to be diagnosed in the US in 2017. Males over 50 and women younger than 50 are reported to have an increased risk of developing melanoma. In fact, melanoma is the second most common form of cancer in women between the ages of 15-29. The annual cost for treating melanoma has grown faster than the annual treatment costs for all other cancers combined.
Sarcoma is a cancerous growth developing in the cells of the connective tissue. Primary cancers that develop in the soft connective tissues such as in the muscles, nerves, blood vessels, and fat cells, are called soft tissue sarcomas, versus osseous sarcomas, which develop in hard connective tissue such as in the bones and cartilage. Connective tissue is abundantly present everywhere in the body, and therefore soft tissue sarcomas can occur anywhere. However, the most common locations for soft tissue sarcomas are in the arms and legs, followed by the organs in the abdominal cavity. While it is a rare type of cancer and constitutes about 1% of all adult cancers, the American Cancer Society estimates that in 2015, approximately 12,000 adults will be newly diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma, and 4,870 adults may die due to this disease.
Skin cancer is the most common of all types of cancers. While melanoma is the most feared skin cancer, non-melanoma skin cancers are far more common. The American Cancer Society estimates 73,000 Americans will be diagnosed with melanoma in 2015; however, there will be 3.5 million new cases of non-melanoma cancers.
The skin is not only the largest organ in the body, it is also a mirror of the health of the body’s internal organs. In addition to protection of inner tissue structures, the skin helps in regulation of body temperature and elimination of metabolic waste products. Many diseases of the digestive, cardiovascular, and nervous systems, and hormonal imbalances and inflammatory conditions are reflected on the skin. With approximately 20 square feet of surface area, the skin is primarily taken care of for cosmetic appeal. Thousands of skin care products cater to beauty and health conscious consumers who hope to avoid acne, discoloration and signs of aging, as well as skin cancer. It is estimated that the global skin care products industry revenue will be $102.3 billion by 2018.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune, chronic inflammatory skin disease characterized by thickened, red skin with silvery scaled patches. These patches typically occur on the scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back. Although the exact cause of psoriasis is not clear, it is not a contagious disease. Psoriasis affects 2-3% of the world’s population, and men and women between the ages of 15 and 45 are equally affected.