Skin tumors … “enemies of the skin"!

Alessandra Bulotta
Article by Dr. Alessandra Bulotta
Oncologist specialized in Melanoma
San Raffaele Hospital in Milano

The number of new cases of skin tumors is constantly increasing, in particular melanomas. Cutaneous tumors can be divided into non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancers.

Non-melanoma skin cancers include actinic keratosis, basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from natural (sun) or artificial sources (lamps or tanning beds) is the main cause of skin cancer.

Danni del sole sulla pelle

Melanoma originates from melanocytes, or from the cells that produce and contain melanin. It can appear on intact skin, or from pre-existing skin moles, which may already be present or appear during the course of one’s life. The causes that determine the malignant transformation are not entirely known, but once again exposure to UV rays, from natural or artificial sources, has a fundamental role. Until a few years ago, melanoma was considered a rare neoplasm, in recent years the incidence has increased in both men and women. Worldwide, it is estimated that in the last decade cutaneous melanoma has reached 100,000 new cases a year: an increase of about 15% compared to the previous decade.

Often we tend to underestimate a possible skin cancer in the common conviction that after the possible identification of the cutaneous tumor (whatever it is) the surgical removal is sufficient, without any other repercussions or danger.

It is not so.

Among all skin cancers, Melanoma is not the most common but it is the most aggressive and lethal, if identified late. If recognized early, it can be successfully treated even with surgery and heal, but if neglected it can spread, even rapidly, to other organs and tissues.

With a diagnosis in the early stages, it may be sufficient only to remove the lesion.

An assessment with manual or digital Dermatoscopy is essential for a proper diagnosis (a dermatological examination is therefore required). If late, the chances of healing decrease and a drug therapy is required, which does not always lead to recovery or give good results.

We can all have one or more factors that put us at risk of developing melanoma, which is why a dermatological visit is recommended once or multiple times per year, based on the presence of one or more of the following risk factors:

Presence of numerous moles

Large congenital moles (since birth)

Personal history of melanoma and other non-melanoma skin cancers

Family history of numerous skin moles and / or melanoma (mother, father, brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles)

Previous episodes of sunburns with blisters, especially during childhood

Chronic solar exposure

Difficulty tanning or fair complexion

Red or blonde hair, light blue/green eyes, tendency to form Ephelides

Immunosuppression

Use of tanning beds and solar lamps

Old age

The skin is the largest organ of our body, and probably also the most easily assessable, so periodic checkups of the skin’s appearance, “saves your skin"!

Dr. Alessandra Buotta

Specialized Oncologist at the San Raffaele in Milano

Oncologist in the Division of Oncology at the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan. Dr. Bulotta performs clinical research activities focused on Malignant Melanoma, Lung cancer, Thyums cancer and Pleural mesothelioma.