Skin cancer is the result of the abnormal growth of skin cells. The most common cause of skin cancer is excessive exposure to the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun. Other causes include a weakened immune system due to HIV AIDS or strong medicines and exposure to harmful radiation or chemicals. Skin cancer mostly affects fair-skinned people.
There are five major types of skin cancer. Be aware that multiple types of skin cancer can affect an individual at the same time.
Actinic Keratosis – Red or pink-colored rough scaly patches appear on the sunburnt areas on the skin. These are bigger than 0.5cm in diameter. These patches are precursory (only up to 1%) lesions that can cause Squamous Cell Carcinoma.
Basal Cell Carcinoma – Raised pink colored waxy bumps appear on the skin. These may start bleeding at the slightest of injuries. Some lesions may have superficial blood vessels and a central depression in them. These are locally malignant and do not spread. Organ transplant recipients are 10 times more vulnerable to Basal Cell Carcinoma than other people.
Melanoma – This is marked by an abnormal growth of black or brown skin lesions that are irregular in symmetry. Treatment depends on the degree of malignancy of the lesions. 100,000 new cases of melanoma are reported in the U.S. each year. Organ transplant recipients are three to four times more vulnerable to Melanoma than general people. There is a 6% chance in adults and a 12 to 15% chance in pediatric organ transplant recipients.
Kaposi’s Sarcoma – This is a rare cancer of the cells that line the blood vessels (endothelial cells). Brownish-red to blue-colored skin lesions appear on the legs and feet. It is generally caused by Human Herpes Virus 8 (HHV-8). The HHV-8 causes the cells that line the blood vessels to become cancerous. It results in immunosuppression – the body’s immune system becomes less effective and gradually stops working.
There are two types of Kaposi Sarcoma: Cutaneous/Mucocutaneous and Visceral.
•Cutaneous/Mucocutaneous – This is treated by reducing the immunosuppression. It occurs in adult transplant patients within a couple of years of transplant.
•Visceral – This can affect the lungs, the gastrointestinal system, and the lymph nodes. It is more life threatening than the cutaneous/mucocutaneous type of Kaposi’s Sarcoma. It mostly occurs in pediatric transplant patients.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma – This is the most common type of skin cancer that affects transplant patients. Dull red rough and scaly raised lesions appear on the skin. These lesions appear mostly on the areas that are frequently exposed to the sun and for longer periods. These include the neck, ears, lips, head, back of the hands, and forearms. The lips are the most vulnerable areas.
There is a slight chance of recurrence or spreading of the lesions, and the lesions can grow quite rapidly. This type of a skin cancer is very aggressive. It generally affects both pediatric and adult organ transplant recipients, who are extremely vulnerable to Squamous Cell Carcinoma.
Dr. Morwood has over 20 years’ experience as a plastic surgeon, he is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, he is a member of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, and for years he has served as either the chief or vice chief of the Division of Plastic Surgery of Monterey.
For more information about Dr. Morwood or if you would like to schedule a consultation, please contact us here.