According to a number of recent studies, skin cancers make up nearly 80% of all newly diagnosed cancers in Australia every year. In just 12 months, general practitioners will see a collective one million people for skin cancer detection and diagnosis.
Common types of cancer that affect Australians include basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Melanoma, in particular, is the fourth most common type of cancer in the country, but it is also by far the most dangerous.
All of this is to say that because skin cancer is such a common issue in this country, it is in all of our own best interests to learn about how it develops and spreads. Doing so puts us in the best position to act while the cancer itself is still in its earliest stages. This helps to reduce long-term risk and increase the chances of survival as much as possible.
With that said, here are some important points you need to be aware of about how skin cancer spreads.
In the Beginning: The Early Days of Melanoma Development
The very, very early stages of skin cancer development are commonly referred to as stages 0, 1, and 2. In these stages, cancer cells are certainly present but have yet to move beyond the original site on your body. Instead, any affected mole or other growth will simply grow in size during this initial period.
As skin cancer begins to develop, it actually starts only in the deepest layer of your skin. This area contains melanocyte cells, which themselves are responsible for creating skin pigments. Once those cells have become damaged (such as from too much sun exposure), they quickly mutate and begin to replicate
Those mutated cells eventually form a tumour, which can then spread to the tissue located close by.
Please note that melanoma is certainly not the only type of skin cancer to be aware of, but for the sake of discussion, it will continue to be used as an example because it is the most dangerous to your health and the incidence is on the rise. There were 12,744 new cases diagnosed in 2013 — a number that had increased to 13,941 in 2017.
The Skin Cancer Spread: What to Watch Out For
As is true with most things in life, once skin cancer develops to the point of a tumour, it needs more sustenance to survive. It actually begins sending out signals throughout the body, which results in blood vessels that grow into the tumour to provide it with oxygen. Those vessels also provide it with nutrients as it continues to develop (in a process also known as angiogenesis). This typically starts to happen during stage 3 of melanoma development.
From here, it is very common for melanoma to spread all throughout the bloodstream and into the lymphatic system. If you are already in a high-risk group due to a family history of skin cancer or your age or even your lifestyle, it is critical to pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you so that you can get checked out by a medical professional as quickly as possible.
Metastasizing: The Ongoing Development of Skin Cancer
After the skin cancer has continued to grow, the infected lymph nodes and blood vessels essentially “help” the cancer spread even further into your body. Common sites include your lungs, your liver, your bones, and even your brain. This is usually known as stage 4 of melanoma development in particular, which itself is the last stage.
At this point, you will have a few main treatment options available to you. Medical professionals usually employ surgery and radiation to try to “kill” the tumour or at least to prevent it from spreading even further. This can also be helpful to relieve any pain or other symptoms that you’re feeling. Drug therapy techniques like immunotherapy and even targeted therapy are also likely to be used.
MoleMap: Your Key to Fast and Accurate Detection
Make no mistake about it: if you have fair skin, are already prone to moles and freckles, have a family history of skin cancer, or are in your 40s or 50s, you are already a part of a high-risk group of people. With that said, you need to be thinking about skin cancer detection on a regular basis.
MoleMap was designed, in part, to help make that process as easy and as effective as possible.
To learn more about how skin cancer spreads throughout the body, or to find out information about other essential topics, please don’t delay — contact MoleMap today.
You can also visit our website and fill out our risk assessment calculator so that you can learn as much about your own personal situation.