Ministry of Health accredited dermatologists are trained specialists in the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer. Through years of training and experience, dermatologists are able to differentiate many forms of skin cancer from non-cancerous lesions with the aid of dermoscopy. Dr Eileen Tan has published research studies related to skin cancers and has experience in diagnosing and managing various skin cancers.
Skin cancer is the most prevalent form of cancer in the world today. According to the Trends in Cancer Incidence in Singapore 2010-2014 (Singapore Cancer Registry), there are 1,719 and 1,381 cases of skin cancer in Singapore men and women yearly respectively. Skin cancer ranks 6th in the causes of male cancers and 7th in the causes of female cancer in Singapore.
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)
Basal cell cancers are the most common type of skin cancer worldwide. Basal cell cancers are abnormal, uncontrolled growths or lesions that arise from the basal layer of the skin. There is a variety of clinical presentations. The typical clinical presentation of basal cell cancer resembles skin-coloured papule nodule with or without pigmentary or vascular changes. It may also resemble ulcers, red patches, and superficial ulcers. While basal cell cancer has a negligible risk of metastasis, lesions will generally continue to enlarge and lead to local tissue destruction. During a skin cancer screening, a skin biopsy for histological examinations can be performed to remove the suspicious skin lesions.
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)
Squamous cell cancer is the second most common type of skin cancer in Singapore. Squamous cell cancer arises from abnormal, uncontrolled growths or lesions that arise from squamous cells, the majority cell type present in the skin’s upper layers (the epidermis).
SCC may arise from actinic keratosis and often look like scaly red patches. The other common clinical presentations of SCC include ulcers, warty growths that may crust or bleed. Occasionally, squamous cell cancer can be aggressive and may metastasize to lymph nodes. SCCs may occur on all areas of the body have a higher chance of doing so on sites exposed to the sun such as the scalp, face, neck, and limbs. If a squamous cell cancer is suspected, a skin biopsy will be performed for histological examination. Squamous cell cancer rarely metastasizes. However, if left untreated, they can become locally destructive and require more extensive surgery.
Malignant melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, originates from the pigment-producing melanocytes in the basal layer of the epidermis. The risk of developing malignant melanoma is linked to intense UV exposure (those that lead to sunburn) and/or the use of artificial tanning beds.
There are several types of melanoma. Malignant melanoma often arises from an existing mole. In Singapore, acral lentigenous melanoma is the most common type of melanoma whereby the cancerous lesions appear on the palms, soles, and digits. Malignant melanoma tends to metastasize quickly, hence screening and early diagnosis are crucial. Any delay in the detection of melanoma can lead to cancer advancing and spreading to other parts of the body, greatly reducing the chances of survival.
There are some warning signs of malignant melanoma. Recognizing the ABCDE warning signs of malignant melanoma can help one detect cancer early.
The ABCDE’s of Melanoma Skin Cancer are:
A – Asymmetry
B – Borders that are irregular
C – Color variation
D – Diameter larger than 6 millimeters
E – Evolution (changing lesion)
Most skin cancers are treatable and curable if diagnosed early. Please schedule a skin cancer screening with an accredited dermatologist.