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Skin problems

Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer. It is characterised as an abnormal skin cell growth resulting from skin damage, particularly caused by UV rays from the sun. Concerning this, people who have fair skin and get sunburn easily are more prone in contracting skin cancer. Other factors that cause skin cancer are those who have frequent industrial x-ray exposure, scarring due to burns and illness, exposure to coal tar and arsenic, and genetics.


Cancer is where a kind of cell grows unrestricted in an unsystematic manner which can upset and replace normal tissues and their functions. 


In Singapore, it was found that skin cancer is the sixth most common cancer experienced by men and the seventh most common cancer for women.

Types of Skin Cancer


There are three main types of skin cancer namely Basal Cell Carcinoma, Melanoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Both Basal Cell and Squamous Cell are treatable. Melanoma can be cured if detected early but if it is only identified in the late stages, Melanoma can be fatal.


Basal Cell Carcinoma is a general skin cancer and occurs on the neck, hands and head in the form of red patch or as a tiny and fleshy bump. However, this does not mean that other parts of the body cannot get affected. This type of cancer is usually found in people with fair skin and do not grow rapidly. It takes months to years for one to grow of one-half inch in diameter. If this cancer is untreated, the cancer will bleed and scab over and heal and this cycle is repeated continuously. Damage can be caused when this cancer extend beneath the skin to the bone and nerves.

Basal Skin Cancer makes up about sixty per cent of all skin cancers experienced by both men and women. Its symptoms include a flat, indurated white- or red-coloured scar, thin red plaque, skin coloured nodule with little pigmentation and small blood vessels, which frequently affected by ulcers.


Squamous Cell Carcinoma is the second most general skin cancer and similar to Basal Cell, this type of cancer is found mostly on fair skinned people. This cancer is distinctive as it is located at the edge of the ears, face, mouth and lips and may appear as a bump or as a scaly and red patch. It appears like a firm, irregular fleshy lump that tends to grow rapidly for over a few weeks or months. Additionally, other symptoms of this type of cancer include a thick, scaly red spot that is tender and sore to touch, with the sore not healing despite efforts. 

Squamous Cell can spread to other parts of the body and hence, it is vital to get treatment as soon as possible. The cure rate for both Squamous Cell and Basal Cell Carcinomas is more than 95%.

Melanoma is the cancer of the pigment which produces cells (melanocytes) in the skin. The norm is whereby the melanocytes are located in the outer layer of the skin and produce brown pigment melanin. This production is responsible for the color of the skin. Melanoma, in other words are melanocytes that have turned cancerous and invade other issues. Among all skin cancers, the malignant melanoma proves to be most fatal but if detected in its early stage, this cancer is curable.

Melanoma can start developing nearby and in a mole or a dark spot. It often manifests itself as a dark brown, or black, skin growth or ulcer. Moreover, compared to moles, its surface may appear as thick and irregular, accompanied by varying shades of colour. Additionally, its margin or shape appears as irregular. 

So when one has moles, it is important to see if there is any changes to the moles so as to determine if it is a sign of melanoma or not. Take note that melanoma grows more quickly and its features change over time. In other words, people who many moles should be aware as they are more at risk in developing melanoma.

Melanoma can grow on our soles and palms, in the mouth, under our nails and on the genitalia. Other than assessing the moles from time to time, other warning symptoms of melanoma are scaly and bleeding bumps and feeling pain and itchiness.


Skin Cancer Detection

Skin Biopsy

Skin biopsy can determine if one has cancer or not and there are several alternatives in treating the cancer. However, different type of skin cancer require different sort of treatment. The appropriate treatment is also determined in accordance to its locations and the individual’s requirements.


Skin Cancer Treatment

  • Surgery

Surgical excision, curettage and electrodessication are all surgical using electrical treatments that use the method of burning or scuffing away the tumor. 

Cryosurgery on the other hand too can be used by freezing a certain area with liquid nitrogen. This treatment is utilised to eliminate small and superficial skin cancers.

Mohs micrographic surgery is another method whereby the whole tumor can be removed by involving a little bit of the skin.


  • Radiation therapies

Radiation therapy and photodynamic therapy use chemical that can be applied to the skin after being exposed to any light. Radiotherapy may take place after surgery is cancer cells are still present and are located in areas that are difficult to treat using surgery. In relation to this, radiation therapy is very effective for Squamous Cell Carcinoma.


  • Topical Chemotherapy

In addition to all these, topical chemotherapy products can be applied in treating skin cancer. Topical chemotherapy utilises drugs that take the form of a cream or liquid that is applied directly onto the tumour to eliminate cancer cells. This type of treatment is useful in aiding some early onsets of Squamous Cell Carcinoma and superficial Basal Cell Carcinoma.


Prevention Tips Against Skin Cancers

In spite of all these advance medical science that can cure skin cancers, the best way however is prevention. The Ministry of Health in Singapore emphasises prevention techniques with great focus on consistent practices of sun protection measures, which includes avoiding the sun during the hottest part of the day and wearing long protective clothing outdoors.

One should prevent all risks of contracting skin cancer by applying sunscreen and wear protective clothing such as sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat. In addition, a healthy diet of Vitamin D and constant examining for any changes on your body can help detect early stages of skin cancer.

Frequently Asked Questions:

A: The best way to combat skin cancer is to protect one’s self from the harmful rays of the sun. It is specifically recommended for one to wear at least SPF30 sunblock every day, and reapplying it every 2 hours if one will stay longer in the sun or when swimming or exercising.

A: Several risk factors will determine the development of skin cancer, but the most common factors would be light skin colour and family or personal history of skin cancer.

A: Sunburns and tans are both risks factors that increase one's chances of developing skin cancer. Between the two, tanning is a great sign or damage, because it causes the skin to produce more melanin to the skin’s surface to combat the injury caused by the harmful UV rays.