Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Dermatology Consultant, Dr. Haya Al Mannai, has highlighted the importance of seeking early medical assistance when signs of skin cancer begin to appear.
Skin cancer is an abnormal growth of skin tissues, which is most commonly caused due to the skin’s prolonged exposure to the sun’s rays.
“The most common cause of skin cancer is the exposure to the ultra violet radiation in sunlight. Although anyone can be affected by skin cancer, people with fair and lighter skin and those with a family history of skin cancer are at a higher risk of developing the disease,” Dr. Al Mannai stressed.
Many types of skin cancers exist, including: Melanoma, which affects melanocytes [cells responsible for skin coloring]; Basal Cell Carcinoma, which is the most common kind and is found in the outer layers of the skin; and Squamous Cell Carcinoma, which arises in the squamous cells [flat cells that form the surface of the skin].
Another common condition that develops into skin cancer is called actinic keratosis, a rough scaly patch on skin that is caused through years of exposure to the sun.
Dr. Al Mannai advised the public to regularly check for any abnormal growths on their body, saying: ”The first signs usually include a growing bump, a changing mole or a scaly, dry and rough patch. When detected early, the cancer can be controlled and treated effectively, with an increased chance for the person to be cured.”
“It is extremely important to check all the skin, including the back, soles of feet, between fingers and toes and under the nails. People should also regularly check the skin for any changes, using a mirror, especially in patients who have multiple moles. If any change is noticed the person should seek medical assistance and get a referral to see the doctor,” Dr. Al Mannai said, adding: “For people who have existing moles, a new spot or an existing spot that changes in color, size or shape, bleeding or itching, it is a sign of concern.”
Highlighting some precautionary measures people can take, Dr. Al Mannai said: “It is advisable to avoid prolonged exposure to the sun between 11am to 4pm and especially during peak temperatures. When people go out they should try to wear sun protective clothing that covers as much skin as possible. Wearing a hat with a broad brim that covers the face, head, neck and ears is also a good way to protect oneself from being affected.”
“It is also recommended to apply broad spectrum water resistant sun block of SPF 30+ or higher at least 20 minutes before going outdoors and repeat application for every three hours you are exposed to the sun,” she added.
If any unusual spots are observed on the skin, Dr. Al Mannai said: “The first step should be to visit the nearest health center for a check-up by a family physician and in case of any suspicion the doctor will refer the patient to a dermatology department for more evaluation.”
At the Department of Dermatology and Venereology in Rumailah Hospital, any patient suspected of having a skin cancer is seen by a dermatologist, who takes a detailed history of the skin lesion, including the family history of skin cancer, Dr. Al Mannai noted.
“Following a physical examination using serial photography, and in case of any suspicion, a skin biopsy for a detailed microscopic evaluation is performed. Some patients warrant further investigation, so referral is sometimes given to another specialty department like oncology or surgery for further diagnosis and treatment if needed.”