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Skin cancer

Skin cancer

Skin cancer is by far the most common form of cancer in the Netherlands. Every year, more than 50,000 people in the Netherlands are diagnosed with 'skin cancer' and this number increases every year. This means that more than one in six Dutch people are directly confronted with a form of skin cancer in his or her life. All types of cancer involve a malignant, uninhibited proliferation of body cells. With skin cancer this is also the case and this uncontrolled cell division takes place in a certain part or in a certain layer of the skin.

Types of skin cancer

The three most common forms of skin cancer are:

  1. basal cell carcinoma (BCC)
  2. squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)
  3. melanoma. 

Of these three, basal cell carcinoma is the most common, but at the same time the least dangerous form of skin cancer. It is rare for BCC to spread but still this variant needs to be treated to prevent further growth in the skin. Squamous carcinoma grows faster than basal cell carcinoma and can spread if no treatment takes place. PCC is therefore more malignant than BCC but the prospects are good if treated in time. Melanoma is the most aggressive form of skin cancer and spreads relatively fast. Melanoma can arise from an existing birthmark but also on 'normal' smooth skin. Rapid treatment is very important.

Causes of skin cancer

The main cause of skin cancer in many cases is excessive exposure to (harmful) UV radiation. This does not only occur in sunlight as many people think, but also in, for example, tanning beds. In order to reduce the risk of skin cancer, it is advisable to minimize exposure to this UV radiation. You can do this by wearing (UV-resistant) clothing, by applying sunscreen often and well and by avoiding the sun as much as possible between 11.00 and 15.00 hours. However, in addition to sunlight and UV radiation, age, skin type, hereditary factors and certain treatments with medication or radiation in the past can also play a role in the development of skin cancer.

Skin cancer prevention

In order to limit the harmful effects of UV radiation as much as possible, the easy to remember advice clothes, apply and repel' is given. Although this seems self-evident, it is important to elaborate on this. There is a big difference between 'normal clothing' and UV-resistant clothing. In contrast to non-UV clothing, UV clothing offers a constant and complete protection of at least SPF 50, also in the water. Normal clothing offers a sun protection of approximately SPF 15 and this even decreases when the clothing gets wet. In addition, UV-resistant clothing dries quickly and is breathable. In addition to good and necessary sun protection, UV clothing also offers sufficient comfort on a sunny day at the beach or swimming pool. It is very important to lubricate body parts that are not covered by UV-resistant clothing well and as often as possible. Opinions are divided on specific lubrication advice, but lubricate at least every two hours. Keep in mind that you can never lubricate too often, but certainly too little. The head and eyes are regularly skipped or underexposed as part of sun prevention. It is important to wear sunglasses (also for the little ones!) and a sun hat or cap. This is in order to limit the risks of sun damage as much as possible. It is also wise to stay out of the sun between 11.00 and 15.00 hours.

Recognizing skin cancer

Timely detection of skin cancer is extremely important. The sooner you get there, the greater the chance of success. Therefore, check your skin very regularly or have a friend or family member do this. Be alert to changes that occur in or on your skin. The most common symptoms that could indicate the presence of skin cancer are::

  1. A changing birthmark. It takes on a different colour, changes shape or becomes larger/thicker.
  2. An itchy birthmark.
  3. A crust forms on a birthmark.
  4. A birthmark that starts to bleed.
  5. Pale pinkish patches that sometimes appear rough and dry on the inside.
  6. 'Shiny' lumps that seem to grow cautiously larger.
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