Information on Melanoma and Skin Cancer - treatments, signs, cures
This melanoma and skin cancer overview and associated articles will give you everything you need to know to help you increase your personal odds of beating the cancer - the symptoms, the diagnosis and all the latest options on cancer treatments - from cancer drugs and chemotherapy to surgery, radiotherapy and complementary cancer therapies; including all the very latest alternative cancer treatments and new cancer therapies. We will even cover the causes and skin cancer prevention.
Skin cancer is statistically the fastest growing cancer in Britain. But much of the historic views on the disease is nonsense.
This article has been compiled by Chris Woollams from worldwide research and expert sources.*
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Skin cancer - the fastest growing cancer in the UK? But are the figures correct?
In 2007 there were approximately 275,000 people diagnosed with cancer in the UK. The figure has almost doubled in the last 30 years. Curiously though, one cancer is not even included in these official figures: Skin Cancer. Yet, supposedly, it is the UKs fastest growing cancer in terms of numbers of people diagnosed, and is the largest single cancer at about 60,000 cases. Of this, about 7,500 cases are melanoma.
Officialdom has told me that most non-melanoma skin cancers are very simple to treat, and can be tackled by primary care even your own GP, so collecting accurate statistics is not easy so they just leave the figures out of the equation completely!!
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Unfortunately, the figures themselves may be wrong! According to a 2011 report in The British Journal of Dermatology, many early skin lesions are being called skin cancer or melanoma. Indeed the levels of stage 2 to stage 4 melanoma have not increased at all over the last decade. The report calls it ´diagnostic drift´; in other words, people are being ´diagnosed´ as having serious melanoma when the tag is not warrented.
Equally important was that the majority of these early lesions had nothing to do, whatsoever, with sun damage. But then, we are not surprised - we have been telling you for years that blaming the sun for skin cancer is wrong. As was the world wide ´Sunsmart´ campaign! (This is why we launched our own Safe Sun campaign) Actually, people with melanoma have lower levels of vitamin D - they haven´t been getting enough sun! And higher oestrogen levels in their blood or at a localised level on the skin may have more to do with cause. Suncreams, after sun and skin creams may contain chemicals that, in sunlight, become carcinogenic. Or it may be something else - certainly, if over half the grade 1 lesions are in areas un-attacked by the sun, it has to be!!!
There are three types of skin cancer:
Basal cell carcinoma where the cancer forms in the cells on the inside of the epidermis (the outer layer of your skin). This accounts for about 65 per cent of the total cases.
Squamous cell carcinoma where the cancer is in the outer layers of the epidermis. (These cells resemble fish scales or squama). About 20 per cent of all cases.
Malignant Melanoma this is a completely different kettle of fish, which can form in the skin or in a mole. It doesnt simply go away when treated. Another myth is that somehow this is a rare cancer it is not. At 7,500 cases per year it is more common than ovarian cancer.
Many lesser conditions may be skin pre-cancers. For example, actinic keratosis (AK), also known as solar keratosis, is a common pre-cancer. It is a small crusty or scaly bump that occurs on or below the surface of the skin. As with cancers, it is thought to be a result of over-exposure to the sun..
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The causes of skin cancer
the issue isnt sunshine it´s burning
All the major charities talk about sun as the cause. It isnt. Burning is the issue, and may be one possible contributory factor to the formation process. For example, people with malignant melanoma are more than three times as likely to have been badly sunburned several times in their lives as those without the disease. An Australian study found that going all-out for a tan on a fortnights holiday is more risky than working constantly outdoors. So, to repeat, the issue isnt sunshine it is sudden exposure to the sun and burning.
Sunshine is good for your Health - And let´s clear it up right here: Sunshine does not cause skin cancer - it is probably a combination of a number of factors including things you put on your skin, and chemicals that act like oestrogen. See our Safe Sun Campaign for more information. (CLICK HERE)
So let us stop the mythology right up front.
1 Sunshine is actually good for us it produces vitamin D from the cholesterol layer just below our skin. And vitamin D is highly protective against cancer. Indeed there is a swathe across America called the Sunbelt, where there is less overall cancer per head of the population. Several research studies have now shown that over 90 per cent of melanoma patients are DEFICIENT in vitamin D - they didn´t have enough sunshine. Since the T-cells of your immune system need a molecule of vitamin D to activate them, these people also have weakened immune systems. Finally, there are several research studies over the last few years that show people who regularly get exposure to sunshine have less skin cancer.
Sunshine is good for you - which is why we launched the CANCERactive SafeSun campaign to counter some of the nonsense other charities were talking over the last eight years - encouraging people to stay out of the sun, cover up, add copious sunscreens etc.
One major reason for skin cancers dramatic increase is our increasing desire to jet off for a sun holiday in the middle of winter. So we expose pale skins to tropical sun for 10 days, and then cover them up again for 4 months - and we think its doing us good. It takes at least 4 days for your natural pigmentation to develop. Before that you can easily burn.
2 Several studies have indicated that skin cancer, especially melanoma, like many cancers may be fuelled by oestrogen, the female sex hormone. This hormone increases in males as they age; and is higher in all people if they are overweight. Women on HRT will have higher levels of oestrogen - one study showed that with two identical women lying on the beach, the one on the contraceptive pill had twice the risk of melanoma. So, the oestrogen doesn´t have to be human - it could come from an synthetic oestrogen-mimic. These are chemicals in all manner of products from personal care products to pesticides. Once inside the body, these chemicals can act like the nastiest forms of oestrogen. California is particular concerned about this phenomenon and is leading US legislation to have them banned.
3 A problem is the sunscreen or suncream - Firstly, because most people slap on a factor too weak. Secondly, because people think that sun cream usage gives them a licence to stay in the sun for longer. And thirdly, because some sunscreens may actually contain ingredients that can increase skin sensitivity. Really? Certain ingredients like PABA have been banned in Scandinavia after just such fears. Other ingredients like oxybenzone are so hormone-changing they are feminising the fish off the Californian coast. They mimic the action of the hormone oestrogen. Other oestrogen mimics like parabens, or even phthalates from the plasticisers in the plastic bottles. (When left in the sun the plasticisers denature forming even more phthalates which leach into the liquid contents - Johns Hopkins Medical School). A new concern is retinyl palmitate which is a synthetic cousin of vitamin A and is often present in all manner of skin creams, sun creams, aftersuns etc. There are concerns in research with the FDA right now.
There is research evidence that shows the use of sunlamps or sunbeds can cause skin cancers.
4 Of course there are many ways of increasing the oestrogen in your body the longer list includes being overweight, eating one very large meal a day which increases insulin levels and has a knock on effect to oestrogen, irregular sleeping habits, exposure to EMFs, using hormone supplements, exposure to Xeno-oestrogens like pesticides, or some chemicals in some perfumes and nail polishes for example. California is banning BPAs (often found in the white lining in cans and even childrens toys), and is looking at banning phthalates, from plastic bottles. (Yes, maybe even your healthy mountain spring water bottle!)
5 There is now research evidence that shows the use of sunlamps or sunbeds can cause skin cancers too.
6 There is some link to genetic predisposition as well, especially in families with genes like BRCA1 and BRCA 2 where damage causes weakened DNA repair systems and weakened immune systems.
7 There is some evidence that squamous cell carcinomas can occur after exposure to arsenic, toxic hydrocarbons, x-rays or even simply extreme heat. Others can occur in scar tissue. Simple immune system compromise by infection or drugs may also promote this form of skin cancer. Research has shown that marathon runners have a higher incidence of melanoma than the norm.
8 A number of drugs increase sensitivity to the sun. These include sulfonamide drugs, some antibiotics, some antidepressants (including tricyclic drugs and even St Johns Wort), some arthritis pain killers, some drugs for heart conditions and high blood pressure, cancer drugs and even some skin care and acne creams and lotions. You should read the labels carefully.
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Most skin cancers appear after the age of 50, although the burning may have occurred at a much earlier age. Melanoma is increasing amongst younger age groups.
The most common places for skin cancers are on the back, legs and face. Basal cell carcinomas are particularly common on the face although they can occur in areas not obviously exposed to the sun, for example in the scalp, under hair.
Basal Cell carcinomas, the most common form of skin cancer, usual start as small lumps and then gain little blood vessels. Some contain darkened melanin pigment and so give the appearance of moles. They rarely spread, although they can move deeper and outwards if left even causing problems (and disfigurement) to the eye, ear, or nose if growing nearby. They grow slowly taking months or even years to become sizable.
Diagnosis is by removal of all or part of the tissue and analysis, often simply under a microscope.
Squamous cell carcinomas are more likely to occur in light-colored skin and people with a long history of sun exposure. Men are affected more often than women. Often these growths can develop from actinic or solar keratoses, appearing years after the original sun damage on parts of the body like the cheeks and nose, as well as the backs of the hands. . It is therefore common for people who stopped being "sun worshipers" in their twenties, or for sailors and golfers in hot climates to develop such pre-cancerous spots years later.
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Treating Skin Cancer (Non-melanoma)
Treatment for skin cancer (and pre-cancerous actinic keratoses) varies, depending on the size, type, depth and location of the lesions.
Surgery: this can take several forms. If the cancer is small, some doctors use a spoon like instrument (a curette) to lift tissue out, sometimes using electrical current to limit bleeding. If the cancer is larger surgery may take the form of excision followed by stitching. Sometimes Cryosurgery is used where liquid nitrogen freezes the tumour to kill it. Sometimes laser surgery will be used. Finally a type of surgery called Mohs surgery can be used (especially in the US) where sections or layers of the tissue are removed and each examined under the microscope. This limits the amount of the healthy surrounding tissue that is needlessly removed, and is most used with large tumours.
Cosmetic surgery may be recommended. This may be performed simultaneously, or at a later stage.
Radiotherapy: may be used in conjunction with, or instead of, surgery.
Chemotherapy: Occasionally, topical drugs containing an anti-cancer agent may be applied. For information on your Cancer Drugs and chemotherapy click here.
Photo Dynamic Therapy: This has also been used successfully. A photosensitive agent is applied and light shone on this agent. We have good articles on this non-toxic treatment elsewhere on the site.
Poultices: An old practice dating back to the Egyptians and Greeks. Herb poultices were applied to cover the local external cancer. We have experience of a lady who applied mangoustein in concentrated form as a poultice to her cancer and it cleared up in 6 weeks, just before the orthodox surgery date planned. The Hoxsey Therapy, which can be found in detail on this site, is a herbal formula and also successfully used to treat skin cancers. (Interestingly, one of his herbs was Red Clover now in tests art the Royal Marsden and other cancer centres as a way of combating oestrogen in breast cancer).
If caught early enough most skin cancers can be successfully treated.
Research covered in icons Cancer Watch did suggest that people who had had a skin cancer did, in subsequent years, have a higher incidence of other (unrelated) cancers than the norm. It is to be remembered that some factors like excess oestrogen can fuel the fire of skin and other cancers, and highlights the fact that a cancer appearing anywhere in the body is often a sign of weakness in the whole body.
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Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer and its incidence is increasing. It develops in the cells that produce the pigment melanin. It can also form in the eyes Occular Melanoma. We have articles on that cancer too.
Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer and its incidence is increasing
Although widely believed to be Ultra Violet induced in the body, that myth is exposed by the fact that melanoma can occur, in rare instances, in the mouth, under nails and in the intestines (Mayo Clinic).
This cancer can spread to other organs. It is most likely oestrogen driven and really should be considered in a different light to the other skin cancers. It is thus a whole body disease that happens to appear first on the skin surface.
Most normally melanoma involves changes to the colouration, size and/or shape of moles. But not exclusively. It can be just an unusual development on the skin. Most people have up to 50 moles, which come in all shapes and sizes. A cause for concern the larger, flatter moles with irregular edges.
The American Academy of Dermatology has developed an A-B-C-D guide for self diagnosis:
A is for asymmetrical shape. Look for moles with irregular shapes, such as two very different-looking halves.
B is for irregular border. Look for moles with irregular, notched or scalloped borders the characteristics of melanomas.
C is for changes in color. Look for growths that have many colors or an uneven distribution of color.
D is for diameter. Look for new growth in a mole larger than about 1/4 inch (6 millimeters).
Other suspicious changes in a mole may include:
Change in texture for instance, becoming hard or lumpy
Spreading of pigment from the mole into the surrounding skin
Oozing or bleeding
Malignant moles vary greatly in appearance. Some may show all of the changes listed above, while others may have only one or two unusual characteristics. (Mayo Clinic).
Click here and read our article "What is Cancer"
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If the Melanoma has not spread, the treatment options are similar to those for skin cancers in general, and there is a high success rate.
Recent research covered in Cancer Watch suggested that the depth of the infected mole was an important determinant of the danger of spread.
Melanomas will be graded in Stages 1-4 according to level of spread. Stage 2 indicates that some spread has begun, possibly to adjacent lymph nodes. When your surgeon operates he may remove these too. (After treatment you may find Lymphatic Drainage techniques a great help).
Chemotherapy: Where there is spread to other tissues, Chemotherapy is the favoured option. Cisplatin, carmustine, fotemustine and paclitaxel have often been the chosen drugs, usually in combinations. Dacarbazine is believed to be the Gold Standard drug with a response of around 20 per cent. However it has encountered some recent competitive criticisms in that its effects can only hold for 6 months. The brain tumour drug Temozolomide has also produced interesting phase III trial results research in the US indicates that it is just as effective and easier to administer. Recent clinical trials in the US also indicate that Tamoxifen and Genisense each can improve response rates. The Dartmouth regime used in the USA combines dacarbazine, carmustine, cisplatin and tamoxifen. While results seemed possibly better, the side effects have been horrendous in some cases. (Chapman et al. J. Clin. Oncol 1999; 17; 2745)
The Tamoxifen use is the interesting option confirming that this is very much an oestrogen driven cancer. If Tamoxifen is offered to you, you should note that its effects can be enhanced by total vitamin E (you can even use less tamoxifen according to clinical trials). You should also read our pages on Breast Cancer and our book Oestrogen the killer in our midst which will tell you ways of reducing the oestrogen levels in your body. See also Pillar II of the 4 Pillars of cancer. For information on your Cancer Drugs and chemotherapy click here.
A new development is the use of designer drugs like Vemurafenib - in advanced states of skin cancer where the melanoma has spread to other organs, over half of patients seem to have a faulty BRAF gene. Maybe this is one of the real causes of skin cancer and melanoma?
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Other treatment options and general points
Scientists at the Arizona Cancer Center report in Clinical Cancer Research magazine, 2004 that if you are sunburned you may develop actinic keratoses later in life, which may lead to lesions and even basal cell or non-melanoma squamous cell cancer later in life. Their study looked at Vitamin A (a good sorce is Fish oil, especially Cod Liver oil) and concluded that vitamin A supplementation at 50,000 IUs per day significantly reduced this problem, resulting in 81 per cent less long-term skin damage. (Be wary of using synthetic vitamin A which can cause liver problems with high doses).
Dacarbazine, the current front line treatment for metastatic melanoma, has yet to show a real benefit in overall survival rates (Anns. Oncology 2006; 17 563-70) However no other drugs seem to improve the picture. Preliminary studies with dendritic cells loaded with antologous peptides had shown promise, but a recent Phase III trial says otherwise.
The National Academy of Sciences Journal (2005) reports that scientists have invented a vaccine (NY-ESO-VISCOMATRIX) which can be given to melanoma cancer patients every three months. The aim is to boost the immune system and stop recurrence or spread. Scientists in Melbourne claimed that 14 out of 19 patients were cancer-free two years on.
Immunotherapy is increasingly gaining interest where agents that will prompt an increased immune response are injected into the body. (See Dendritic Cell Vaccines )
Although Orthodox medical practitioners will cry in horror you can also read two Living proofs on this web site of women that cured their melanomas through Diet Therapies. One of those ladies, Beata Bishop, having tried all the orthodox options 22 years ago, went on to the Gerson Therapy and is now one of the UKs leading lights in the promotion of this treatment.
On this web site you will find more information about more treatment options (Complementary and Alternative, not just Orthodox), and on more possible contributory factors to the development and maintenance of your cancer, than on any other UK cancer web site. Some experts believe that approaching your cancer in this total way can increase an individuals chances of survival by as much as 60 per cent.
This is all supported by the very latest research evidence from all over the world in our news section Cancer Watch.
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