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Cells of the skin and underlying tissue may accumulate and cause growths. These growths may be flat or raised, and can vary in colour from dark brown or black to skin-coloured or red. They may be present at birth or develop later.
When the growth is controlled and the cells do not spread to other parts of the body, the skin growth (tumour) is non-cancerous (benign). When the growth is uncontrolled, the tumour is cancerous (malignant), and the cells will invade normal tissue and possibly spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body.
Most skin growths are non-cancerous and are mainly a cosmetic problem. However, if you have a skin growth that is changing in appearance (size, shape or colour) or symptoms over time, you should have the growth examined by a doctor to determine whether it is skin cancer. Most skin cancers are curable when treated at an early stage, thus it is important to see a doctor early if you have an unusual or changed skin growth.
Your doctor may be able to recognize the nature of the skin growth by examining it. However, a biopsy or removal may be advised to confirm the diagnosis under a microscope.
Some non-cancerous growths may go away on their own without treatment. Some may cause problems such as pain or infection, and removal with surgery or lasers may be advised.
Cancerous growths, or skin cancers, are usually treated by surgical removal. The scar that is left after the surgery depends on the size of the original cancer, which may be small if the cancer is caught early. However, larger or more invasive cancer types may require removal of a significant amount of skin and tissue. This may need to be replaced or reconstructed with either:
Depending on the type of skin cancer you have, you may require additional treatment such as radiotherapy, chemotherapy, or immunotherapy.
Prevention of Skin Cancer
You can reduce your risk of developing skin cancer by reducing exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. This includes cutting down on your sun exposure, or ensuring that you apply a high SPF sunblock whenever you plan to go out in the sun.
It is important to check your skin regularly for suspicious changes in order to detect skin cancer at its earliest stages. Early detection of skin cancer gives you the greatest chance of successful skin cancer treatment.