There is an increasing incidence of skin cancer epidemiology around the world and in the region, requiring efforts to raise awareness and implement standardised screening programmes. Patients residing in areas with high annual average sunshine such as the UAE should be taking extra precautions in the fight against skin cancer. Skin cancer represents one of the most common male malignancies in the UAE, with a prevalence rate of 14.5 per cent.
“As the incidence of skin cancer is steadily rising, it has never been more important to educate patients on the importance of early diagnosis and treatment,” explains Dr. Ghada Ashour, Specialist Dermatologist at Medcare Hospital, Dubai. “Mortality from skin cancer is strongly linked to the stage of development, therefore early detection is the most important step to improve prognosis. The first step is always visual examination, so we recommend patients carry these out regularly.”
The risk of skin cancer depends on the skin type. There are six skin types with type one classified as the fairest skin that always burns, but never tans, and type six as dark or black skin that never burns, but always tans.
In addition to the high annual average sunshine, there has been a recent dramatic increase in patients’ lifestyle choices such as vacationing in sunny climates, engaging in outdoor activities and using harmful tanning machines. These factors increase the risk of skin cancers such as melanoma.
The World Health Organization (WHO) note some individual risk factors for skin cancer include fair skin, blue, green or hazel eyes, light-coloured hair, tendency to burn rather than suntan, history of severe sunburns, many moles, freckles and a family history of skin cancer.
Other risks apart from sun exposure include precancerous and cancerous skin lesions, benign tumours, fine and coarse wrinkles, freckles, discoloured areas of the skin or mottled pigmentation, and telangiectasias, which is the dilation of small blood vessels under the skin.
"As the incidence of skin cancer is steadily rising, it has never been more important to educate patients on the importance of early diagnosis and treatment." - Dr. Ghada Ashour
According to Dr. Ashour, new non-invasive techniques for the early diagnosis of melanoma have been developed, which are superior to the naked eye examination, such as total body photography, digital dermoscopy and confocal microscopy, which in addition to dermoscopy assist the dermatologist in differentiating benign markings from early melanomas.
“If caught early, squamous cell carcinomas and basal cell carcinomas can be treated either invasively or non-invasively with very good prognosis. Simple excision, Mohs micrographic surgery, curettage and electrodesiccation, and cryosurgery are all options to treat basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma of the skin.”
References available on request.
New non-invasive techniques for the early diagnosis of melanoma have been developed, which are superior to the naked eye examination.