Development of Cancer
Skin Cancer often develops on areas of the skin that are more exposed to the sun. When the skin cells get damaged by UV-radiation, they begin to grow out of control creating a cluster of what we know as “cancerous cells” or tumor.
A tumor can be malignant, meaning it can grow and spread to other parts of the body, or benign, meaning it can grow but will not spread.
Skin damage from sun exposure is accumulated over time, meaning that the risk of developing skin cancer increases with age. The 80% of total lifetime sun exposure is taking place before the age of 18 years1. It is therefore essential to protect children from sunlight.
This cancer has its origin in the epidermis and occurs mainly in older people. There are two variants:
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC), occurring when the first cell affected is a basal cell, located in the lower part of the epidermis. These lesions are mostly red or pale in colour and appear as a lump or as dry, scaly area. They grow slowly.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC), occurring when the first cell affected is a squamous cell, located in the upper part of the epidermis. They often appear as a thick, red scaly spot that bleeds easily, crusts or becomes ulcerated.
Melanoma is caused by a malignant change in the melanocytes, the cells that form the skin pigment melanin. Melanoma is often very aggressive and is responsible for most deaths from skin cancer.
Skin cancer is linked to sun exposure. Therefore, people who lives in countries with more sunlight exposure or individuals who spend excess time in direct sunlight without protection are at a higher risk for developing skin cancer.
Furthermore, individuals that have light skin and red or blond hair have a much higher risk of developing skin cancer.
1) Pustisek N, Sikanić-Dugić N, Hirsl-Hećej V, Domljan ML. Acute skin sun damage in children and its consequences in adults. Coll Antropol. 2010;34 Suppl 2:233-237.