Skin cancer: causes, symptoms, treatment, prognosis

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer. It is a malignant tumor that originates from skin cells. There are three types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. The last type is the most malignant form. But what exactly is skin cancer, what is actinic keratosis, what are the causes of skin cancer, the symptoms. What can you do if skin cancer affects you and what is the prognosis for the different types? In 2019, almost 73,000 people were diagnosed with skin cancer.

Article content

  • Skin cancer
  • Pre-stage of skin cancer
  • Causes of skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma)
  • Basal cell carcinoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Melanoma
  • Kaposi’s sarcoma
  • Actinica lotion


Skin cancer

When you talk about skin cancer, you are talking about various forms of cancer that develop in the skin, usually (partly) caused by exposure to sunlight. There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma . Melanoma is a very aggressive form of skin cancer and affects more and more young people/young adults.

Pre-stage of skin cancer

Actinic keratosis is considered the precursor to skin cancer. You see spots on the skin that feel rough and flaky. They are light red to reddish brown in color, the surface is rough white-yellow.

Causes of skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma)

  • The main cause is long-term exposure to harmful ultraviolet in sunlight.
  • More chance of skin cancer if you live or go on holiday in places with bright sunshine.
  • The closer you live to the equator, the greater the risk of skin cancer.
  • The thinning of the ozone layer can have an influence.
  • A tanning bed that emits ultraviolet radiation can have an effect.
  • Working outside a lot increases the risk of skin cancer, especially in people with light skin (little melanin, this pigment protects against unhealthy ultraviolet in sunlight).


Basal cell carcinoma

This is the most common type of skin cancer. This form of skin cancer is easy to treat and metastases are almost never an issue. Basal cell carcinoma almost never occurs in people under the age of forty, men are more likely to suffer from it than women and people with light skin are at greater risk. Sun exposure and use of a tanning bed are factors that increase the risk of basal cell carcinoma.

Symptoms of basal cell carcinoma

  • Basal cell carcinoma develops slowly.
  • A small lump may appear, which is not painful. The surface will be smooth, the blood vessels can be seen and the color of the lump is pink to brown or gray. The edge will have the sheen of mother of pearl.
  • The lump gradually enlarges and becomes a pit with raised edges.
  • Basal cell carcinoma can also appear as an ulcer that sometimes starts to bleed, or scabs form for no reason. It may also look like a dark brown spot. If a lump gets bigger or a wound does not disappear, go to the doctor.


Basal cell carcinoma treatment

If basal cell carcinoma is suspected, a biopsy will probably be taken to determine the diagnosis. The tissue can be cut away or frozen. If the place where the carcinoma is located is very difficult, you can opt for radiation, such as the eye.

Basal cell carcinoma prognosis

The tumor is usually gone for good after treatment. But sometimes the tumor returns in the same place after treatment. It is therefore advisable to remain under control. If you have previously had a basal cell carcinoma, there is a greater chance that you will also develop this skin cancer in other parts of the body. Keep a close eye on it yourself or have it investigated.

Squamous cell carcinoma

This form of skin cancer can be treated effectively in its early stages. But squamous cell carcinoma can spread and can sometimes be fatal.

Symptoms of squamous cell carcinoma

  • A squamous cell carcinoma starts as a thickened spot with flakes on the face.
  • It then becomes a hard, slowly growing lump that in principle does not cause any pain. The edge is irregular in shape and has a red or brown color.
  • It can also manifest itself as an ulcer with a scab that does not go away.


Treatment of squamous cell carcinoma

A biopsy will likely be done to confirm the diagnosis. The tissue will then be cut away. If the area is large, a skin transplant may be necessary. Radiation can also be chosen and chemotherapy may be necessary for several large growths or if they have already spread.

Squamous cell carcinoma prognosis

If it is discovered early, treatment is often successful. If it takes a long time before it is discovered, it may spread to lymph nodes or other organs. The prospects for metastases are less favorable. Surgical treatment may then be necessary or radiotherapy or chemotherapy.


Melanoma is the most malignant type and is about as common as squamous cell carcinoma. The malignant cells can spread to other parts of the body. Many more people die from melanoma than from basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma. Melanoma can develop on any part of the body, but most often on parts of the body that are regularly exposed to the sun.

Symptoms of melanoma

  • A rapidly growing, irregular, dark spot may indicate melanoma.
  • Or if an existing mole shows certain changes: its size increases, its shape and color changes (in particular, darkening), its edges become irregular and jagged, an itchy feeling, a red color, bleeding and formation of a scab.


Melanoma treatment

If there is a melanoma, the tumor will be completely excised. If the tissue contains cancer cells, healthy tissue surrounding the tumor area will also be removed. If this is a large area, skin grafting may be necessary. The lymph nodes may also be examined. If other parts of the body are also affected, chemotherapy often follows.

Melanoma prognosis

If a melanoma is on the surface and is discovered quickly, the chances of recovery are high. But if discovered late, melanoma can be fatal. If you have any suspicions, go to a doctor immediately! If melanomas have grown deep into the skin, the prognosis is not good. If it spreads, the prognosis is poor.

Kaposi’s sarcoma

This is also a form of skin cancer. It used to be a tropical disease, but nowadays this skin cancer mainly occurs in people with AIDS. It is characterized by thickenings with a brown/pink color, they can appear all over the body. If this form of cancer is discovered at an early stage, treatment with radiotherapy is possible. But if it is discovered at a later stage, chemotherapy may be necessary.

Actinica lotion

This lotion is a medical device for the prevention of non-melanoma skin cancer and mild dermatosis. Photodermatosis is a
skin condition that is caused or worsened by light (UVA, UVB, UVC, infrared light or visible light). The lotion is effective in preventing actinic keratosis and squamous cell carcinoma . It is often prescribed by skin doctors (dermatologists) for the pre-stage of skin cancer or after skin cancer treatment, for people with an organ transplant and for mild dermatosis. If you suspect that you have an increased risk of actinic keratosis or a form of non-melanoma skin cancer, consult with your doctor whether it is wise to use Actinica lotion. The lotion is unscented, suitable for sensitive skin and comes in a handy dosing pump.

read more

  • Melanoma: malignant birthmark, aggressive skin cancer