Skin Cancer

Cancer of the skin is very common after the age of fifty. It appears in several forms, is usually painless and may grow rapidly or slowly, but characteristically it never heals of its own accord. The most common skin cancer, termed epithelioma, begins slowly as a small pearl of skin which enlarges but eventually ulcerates at its center to finally take the appearance of a small moon-like crater. It becomes covered over with a crust, and seems to be healing, but the crust eventually comes off to expose once again a raw surface underneath. The epithelioma usually grows very slowly, and painlessly. It develops most often on the face, hands and exposed skin surfaces and is thought at least partially, caused by sunlight. Other substances, however, are equally suspected, especially when they occur about the lips and inside of the mouth.

Another skin cancer, called a melanoma, often develops from the bluish-black mole. It is a rapid, vicious and very fast-growing cancer, and unless totally removed in its earliest stages, spreads widely throughout the body to eventually cause death. Such skin cancer, fortunately, is very rare. All forms of skin cancer, have one characteristic in common, they never completely heal. Therefore, any skin bleeding, discoloration or enlargement which does not heal promptly, should be examined by the physician, especially after the age of fifty when skin cancer is more common. Also, as a preventive measure, pigmented moles in the region of frequent irritation should be removed before they can get into trouble. Such regions include the sole of the foot, the palm of the hand, the waistline and the shaving area of the face.

Fortunately, most skin cancers do not spread rapidly and are not difficult to cure. While they are definitely undesirable, skin cancers have the decided advantage of being readily seen, where they can be treated at an early stage. Skin cancers, like any malignancy, must be adequately treated by complete removal or destruction, but unfortunately they are sometimes allowed to grow to a size of several inches or more over long periods in the hope that a worthless salve will someday, somehow heal it. The only effective treatment of skin cancer is in the hands of the physician and it consists of surgery or x-ray therapy exclusively.