Skin cancer usually corresponds to the number of severe sunburns endured, particularly in childhood. But 'cumulative' exposure over a person's lifetime can also increase their long-term risk. Each time skin is exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, changes take place in the structure and function of our skin cells. Over time, skin can become permanently damaged and worsens with each exposure. Individuals with fair skin have a higher risk than people with darker, olive complexions. However, all skin types can be damaged by exposure to UV radiation.
Skin cancer occurs when skin cells multiplies out of control. There are three main types of skin cancer:
1. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)
2. Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)
BCC and SCC (non-melanoma skin cancer) together account for about 98% of skin cancers. Among the three, melanoma is the most serious type. Skin cancer occurs on the body surface and so is usually easier to spot, diagnose and treat, especially for non-melanoma skin cancer which grows slowly, is more localised and less likely to spread. Non-melanoma skin cancer can usually be cured if treated in time. Treatment for localised skin cancer is less invasive and involves removing some of the skin through surgery. Skin cancer may come back (recurrence), either at the original site or as a new tumour. This means you have to get into the habit of examining the skin yourself and arranging regular check-ups.
Skin cancer can in various shapes and locations on your body, e.g. cheek, scalp, ears, lips, shoulders or thighs. If you notice any of the following signs, please see your doctor immediately.
Basal cell carcinoma:
Appear as a raised and smooth small lump in red or pearl colour
Can also come with rashes or skin peeling. The affected area will be enlarged and crusting, and become itchy, bleeding or ulcerated later
Squamous cell carcinoma:
Appear as a pink and thickened lump
Bleeding and ulcerated
Appear as a normal dark mole
The rim will become crusty and different colours: brown, black, blue, red, white or light grey appear later
Any change in a mole, freckle or normal patch of skin that occurs quickly, over weeks or months, should be taken seriously.
Reduce your risks
Avoid overexposure to the sun
Use sunscreen outdoors
Don’t use tanning beds
Cover up your body with clothing
For more cancer-related information and support, please visit the Hong Kong Cancer Fund website or contact Hong Kong Cancer Fund free enquiry hotline: (852) 3656 0800
Source: Hong Kong Cancer Fund
The information on this page is for reference only. It is not intended to constitute a recommendation, and it is not intended as a substitute for professional advice. You should not act on any information on this page without seeking specific professional advice.