Common Skin Conditions
Melanoma is a form of cancer that originates from the melanocytes, the cells in the skin that produce the skin pigment and cause freckles, moles and give you your suntan.
Melanoma can occur anywhere on the skin, even the soles of the feet. They grow quickly and if not treated, they may spread to the lower layers of skin where cells can escape and be carried to other parts of the body or lymph vessels, this is called metastasis.
The main cause of melanoma and other skin cancers is exposure to UV radiation from the sun and other sources, such as solariums and tanning beds. Having other family members affected by melanoma also increases your risk of melanoma as the risk can be inherited. Australians have the highest rate of skin cancer in the world.
Melanomas can vary greatly in the way they look. The first sign of melanoma is usually a change in an existing freckle or mole or the appearance of a new spot. If melanomas are removed at an early stage they are completely curable.
The most common type is atopic dermatitis (eczema), a chronic skin disorder that causes very dry and itchy patches of skin when the skin loses its moisture. These patches can be anywhere on the body but are mostly on the lower and upper limbs. Without moisture, the skin becomes weak and can’t provide a protective barrier for the body. Skin becomes very easily irritated and responds with a dry rash in the weak areas.
Why people get eczema is still unclear, however research has found that it is hereditary, and that people who have eczema often have other allergic conditions, like hayfever and asthma.
There are other types of eczema including discoid eczema, allergic contact dermatitis, irritant contact dermatitis and eczema craquèle
These conditions can be managed and the symptoms relieved through the use of topical therapies, antihistamines and avoiding ‘triggers’.
Helpful Tips for Treating Atopic Dermatitis:
- Stay clear of possible triggers such as wool or synthetic fibres, dust and dustmites, pollens, perfumes and cosmetics and sometimes food allergies.
- Use a non-soap cleanser or sorbolene cream when you bathe. Immediately after bathing, apply a moisturising cream or ointment to hydrate your skin.
- Use a moisturiser every time you wash your hands.
Acne is a persistent skin condition that appears as an outbreak of pimples, whiteheads, blackheads or cysts.
Acne occurs when excess oil and dead skin cells block the opening of pores enabling bacteria to grow, causing inflammation. This can be painful, disfiguring and uncomfortable.
It is completely curable with the right treatment.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, where the immune system becomes overactive, and attacks the skin causing inflammation. In psoriasis, skin cells replace themselves too quickly and do not mature properly.
It is usually associated with dry, red, scaly skin patches. However it can come in many different forms and affect any part of your skin and nails. This condition most commonly appears on your knees, elbows and scalp.
There are many treatment options for psoriasis. As a result of new and exciting research, new treatments that achieve great results are now available.
We are able to access the new biologics therapies for patients with severe psoriasis that has not responded to other treatments.
Our bodies are constantly making new cells, sometimes something goes wrong with this process and cells grow in an uncontrolled way. This uncontrolled growth may result in a lump called a tumour.
Tumors can be benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). A malignant tumor is made up of cancer cells.
The three most common types of skin cancer are Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC), Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) and Melanoma.
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)– Are usually red, red-white or pearly in colour and may bleed. They don’t usually hurt or itch. This type of skin cancer tends to grow slowly and doesn’t usually spread to other parts of the body. However, if left untreated BCCs will get bigger and grow deeper into the skin and damage nearby tissue. This may make treatment more difficult and increases the chance of the skin cancer coming back.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)– May appear as thickened red scaly spots, which later may bleed easily or be tender to touch. They can look like a sore that hasn’t healed. SCCs tend to grow quickly over several months and can spread to other parts of the body. Newer treatments for some types of pre-cancers or early cancers include different anti-cancer creams, although many cancers will need to be removed surgically to be cured.
The earlier you seek treatment for a skin cancer, the better is the chance of complete cure and better cosmetic outcome from treatment.
We all know that exposure to the sun can cause our skin to burn. In order to explain this phenomenon, we need to understand ultraviolet rays.
UVA rays, known as Ultraviolet A, penetrate deep in to the lower layers of the skin known as the dermis and are the cause of the visible signs of ageing and skin damage.
These wavelengths don’t cause sunburn, but do have an effect on our immune system locally in the skin, by reducing its ability to combat skin cells, and therefore predispose to skin cancer. The other effect that UVA rays have is that by penetrating into the middle layers of skin, they are responsible for damage to collagen elastic tissue, resulting in photoaging of the skin, wrinkling, and colour changes. It is therefore important to use a sunscreen which effectively blocks these longer wavelength UVA rays, therefore preventing skin cancer and also reducing aging changes of the skin.
UVB rays, known as Ultraviolet B, penetrate in to the upper layers of the skin known as the epidermis causing the skin to burn.
The importance of reducing exposure to UVB rays is that these wavelengths damage the DNA in our skin cells, and therefore predispose to the development of skin cancer, although by a different mechanism to the UVA rays.
The majority of sunscreens in today’s market are quite effective at screening the UVB component of sunlight. However, it is still possible to burn even though you faithfully apply sunscreen, this is because the sunscreens that rely on chemical absorbers of UV do allow some UV through, so that over time, there is a build up of the effect of sun exposure. Sunscreens simply allow you to stay out longer before you sunburn. UVC rays, known as Ultraviolet C, are blocked by the ozone layer.
Helpful Tips When Avoiding Sunburn:
- Remember the sun’s rays are strongest throughout the middle of the day.
- Seek shade where possible.
- Clothing is more effetive in blocking ultraviolet rays. Wear protective clothing and accessories.
- Always apply sunscreen regularly.
- The newer chemical sunscreens can be very effective blockers of both UVA and UVB. It is important to remember that not all sunscreens are equally effective in blocking UVA and UVB and the price is not necessarily an indicator on how well it is able to block UVA and UVB.
- Zinc and titanium are very effective in blocking UVA and UVB, and these sunscreens may be combined with chemical blockers or be the single active agent in the sunscreen eg. Clear Zinc.