There are more than 100 types of skin cancer. “Of these,” explains Dr José Carlos Pascual, dermatologist at Quirónsalud Torrevieja, “we could say that basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma are the most common, in that order. Among these tumours, melanoma is the one associated with the highest mortality. “However,” warns the dermatologist, “most deaths from skin cancer are due to squamous cell carcinoma, which, although less aggressive, is much more common than melanoma.
The fundamental treatment for this type of tumour is its removal with adequate surrounding tissue margins. “This surgery has a very good prognosis and few complications. For more aggressive cases, although infrequent, we have radiotherapy, chemotherapy and, more recently, immunotherapy,” Dr Pascual points out.
The ABCDE rule for suspected melanoma
Dr Pascual advises to be alert to these risk indicators:
A. Asymmetry: one half of a mole looks different from the other, they are not symmetrical.
B. Irregular borders; irregular, poorly defined or blurred borders can be a sign of melanoma.
C. Colour: particularly dark or multi-coloured moles may carry risks.
D. Diameter: a spot larger than six millimetres in diameter is a sign to see a dermatologist.
E. Evolution: a mole that changes in size, shape or colour and becomes itchy, inflamed or bleeds should be checked by a specialist.
“A very interesting feature in our patients’ skin check-ups,” warns Dr Pascual, “is the sign of the ugly duckling, which means that a lesion that in a panoramic view is very different from the rest of the moles should catch our attention and make us consult a dermatologist.
Who is most prone to skin cancer?
There are various genetic mutations that predispose to melanoma and which are present in cases of familial melanoma. We also know that the lighter the skin, hair and eyes of patients, the less able they are to defend themselves against ultraviolet radiation and the easier it is for them to develop melanoma, with red-haired individuals being the most at risk.
“As for the behaviours that most predispose to melanoma,” warns the dermatologist at Quirónsalud Torrevieja, “sunburns in childhood and adolescence are those most associated with melanoma. Furthermore, users of ultraviolet tanning booths have a 20 times higher risk of developing melanoma in their lifetime”.
Can we prevent skin cancer?
To avoid melanoma and other cancers, the Dermatology Service at Quirónsalud Torrevieja recommends avoiding sun exposure at peak radiation times, especially in children, patients with very fair skin, or those with predisposing factors for melanoma. Always use sunscreen and repeat its use every two hours, and more frequently if we are going to go into the water or sweat profusely. Wear appropriate clothing, a hat or cap and properly approved sunglasses.