Non-melanoma Skin Cancers
Non-melanoma skin cancer is a malignant tumor that develops in the cells of the skin. The skin is the largest organ in the body. Its main function is to protect the body from infection and injury. It also helps to regulate temperature and rid the body of waste through the sweat glands. It stores fat and water, and also creates Vitamin D. It is made up of two main layers: the epidermis on top, and the dermis which below the epidermis.
There are several non-cancerous types of tumors or masses that can affect the skin including moles, seborrheic keratoses, lipomas, warts, and hemangiomas.
There are three kinds of cells that make up the epidermis:
- basal cells
- squamous cells
There is the ‘basement membrane' that separates the epidermis from the deeper layers of the skin. In advanced stages of non-melanoma skin cancers will grow down, past the basement membrane and into the deeper layers of the skin.
There are two types of non-melanoma skin cancer:
- basal cell carcinoma
- squamous cell carcinoma
Roughly 80 percent of all skin cancers are basal cell carcinoma. Basal cell carcinoma is slow-growing cancer that generally develops on skin that is exposed to the sun, including the head and neck.
A smaller percentage of skin cancers are squamous cell carcinomas. They also develop on skin that is exposed to the sun as well as on scars or in places where there are chronic skin lesions. Squamous cell carcinomas have a greater instance of spreading than basal cell carcinomas, though it is not very common.
Causes & Symptoms of Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer
There are several known risk factors for non-melanoma skin cancer. The most important factor is exposure to ultraviolet radiation. UVR includes UVA, UVB, and UVC. The sun is our main source of UVA.
Risk factors for Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer include:
- exposure to UVR
- people with fair complexions, eyes, and hair
- risk rises with age
- long-term or severe skin inflammation
- weakened immune system
- ionizing radiation exposure
- certain petroleum products
- PUVA therapy
- precancerous skin conditions
- personal history
Other possible risk factors include:
- number of moles
- HPV (human papillomavirus)
- photosensitizing agents
Some of the following symptoms can be caused by things other than non-melanoma skin cancer, so it is important to visit your physician for a proper diagnosis.
Symptoms of basal cell carcinoma include:
- chronic sore that doesn't heal
- area of skin that is raised, red and itchy
- area of skin that is smooth and ‘pearly’ or waxy
- bleeding from sore
- sore that develops into an ulcer
Symptoms of Squamous cell carcinoma include:
- scaly patches that crust or bleed
- raised bump with a center that lies lower than the outer area
- chronic sore that doesn't heal or heals and comes back
- wart-like growths
Basal and squamous cell cancers can also develop with very small changes to the skin. There are also types of skin cancer that present very differently from what is described above, so it's important to visit your physician to check any skin irregularities.
Who Gets Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer
People who are outside a lot are more susceptible to skin cancers. Squamous cell carcinoma has been directly linked to the total amount of UVR exposure someone has over their lifetime including working outside, recreational outdoor activities and UVR exposure during childhood.
Basal cell carcinoma is found more often in people with fair complexions and is linked to sunburns and overexposure to the sun in childhood or teenage years.
Prognosis if You Have Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer
It is uncommon to die from non-melanoma skin cancers. The majority of those who are at risk of death from these types of cancers are elderly and have not seen a doctor for unusual skin issues. People with suppressed immune systems including those who have had organ transplants are also more likely to die from non-melanoma skin cancers.
5-Year Survival Rates for Squamous Cell Carcinoma:
• Unknown — basal and squamous cell carcinoma are not tracked by cancer registries
Treatments for non-melanoma skin cancers vary depending on several factors including stage, grade and type of cancer along with the age and the overall health of the patient.
Conventional medicine’s main types of treatment for non-melanoma skin cancers include:
• photodynamic therapy
• biological therapy
• Systemic Chemotherapy
• Targeted therapy
• Follow-up Treatments
Sources: American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, Cancer Research Society
Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer Alternative Oncology Protocols
Alternative cancer treatments for Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer are electromedicine, dietary regimens, light therapy, essential oils, cannabis, vitamins and supplements.
How to Prevent Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer
Limiting your exposure to UVR is the most effective way to prevent non-melanoma skin cancer.
Some ideas to limit UVR exposure while outdoors:
• seek shade when possible
• use sunscreen
• wear hats, shirts, and long pants
• wear sunglasses
Also, stay away from tanning beds and sun lamps.
There are also lifestyle choices you can make that can limit your risk of non-melanoma skin cancers including keeping your immune system strong with a healthy diet and proper exercise. Don't smoke.
The immune system contains many different types of “cells,” however, only a handful of these white blood cells actually kill cancer cells. It should be the intent of a person with cancer to focus on treatments that quickly increase the count of the cancer-killing white blood cells.
Immune System Health
A healthy immune system remains your body's best defense. Not only is a weak immune system a major reason patients have cancer — and cancer itself can further weaken the immune system.
Beta glucans may help regulate the immune system, making it more efficient. In addition, beta glucans have shown promising abilities to stimulate white blood cells (lymphocytes) that bind to tumors or viruses and release chemicals to destroy it in scientific studies.
Harvard Medical School suggests following general good-health guidelines is the single best step you can take toward keeping your immune system strong and healthy:
- Don't smoke.
- Eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and low in saturated fat.
- Exercise regularly.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Control your blood pressure.
- If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.
- Get adequate sleep.
- Take steps to avoid infection, such as washing your hands frequently and cooking meats thoroughly.
- Get regular medical screening tests for people in your age group and risk category.
More Information: Building the Immune System
Your diet plays a role in a healthy immune system. The top vitamins your immune system needs to perform include:
• Vitamin C — helps to repair and regenerate tissues and aids in the absorption of iron
• Vitamin E — a powerful antioxidant that helps your body fight off infection
• Vitamin B6 — supports adrenal function and is necessary for key metabolic processes
• Vitamin A — aids immune function and helps provide a barrier against infections
• Vitamin D — modulates cell growth, promotes neuromuscular and immune function, and reduces inflammation
• Folate — key in development of red blood cells (a lack of Folate can make the body susceptible to cancer)
• Iron — helps your body carry oxygen to cells
• Selenium — slows the body's overactive responses to certain aggressive forms of cancer
• Zinc — slows the immune response and control inflammation in your body