Skin cancer is one of the most common malignant cancers diagnosed in Qatar. In recognition of Skin Cancer Awareness Month, Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is urging the public to learn more about their individual cancer risk, noting that many skin cancers can be prevented.

According to Dr Mohamed Ussama Al Homsi, Senior Consultant at HMC, exposure to ultraviolet radiation in sunlight is one of the most common causes of skin cancer. He said that it’s important that the public be fully aware of the health risks associated with over-exposure to the sun and artificial tanning devices. Exposure to ultraviolet radiation is largely preventable by reducing one’s sun exposure, wearing protective clothing and sunscreen while in the sun, and avoiding indoor tanning.

Skin cancer is the abnormal growth of skin tissue commonly caused by the skin’s prolonged exposure to sunlight. When detected early, skin cancer is one of the most highly treatable forms of cancer.

Skin Cancer ABCDEMelanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, is most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds. It often resembles a mole, with the majority of melanomas being black or brown. If melanoma is recognised and treated early, it is almost always curable, but if it is not, the cancer can advance and spread to other parts of the body, where it becomes hard to treat and can be fatal. Melanoma is more common on skin that is most often exposed to sunlight, such as the face, neck, hands, and arms.

Dr Al Homsi said that in order to detect and diagnose skin cancer as early as possible, it is important to look for changes in the appearance of skin, which can include itching, bleeding, a growing bump, a sore that doesn’t heal, dry or rough patches, or any new or changing moles. He encourages the public to use the ABCDE checklist of skin cancer to spot changes:

Asymmetry – one half of the mole doesn’t match the other
Border irregularity – the outer edges are uneven
Colour that is not uniform – dark black or multiple colours
Diameter greater than 6 millimetre  – about the size of a pencil head eraser
Evolving – change in size, shape or colour

Dr Al Homsi said that taking precautionary measures such as seeking shade, covering exposed skin with clothing, using a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen daily with an SPF of 30 or higher, and avoiding exposure to artificial sun, such as tanning/sunlamps, are an important part of reducing one’s skin cancer risk. He also recommends self-examination and annual check-ups with a dermatologist.

Dr Reyad Hassan Mohsen, Senior Consultant at the NCCCR, said that patients at HMC’s Dermatology Department with suspected skin cancer are referred to the NCCCR, where they are normally seen by an oncology specialist within 48 hours of referral. He said that cancer treatments are continuing to evolve but prevention is still the best line of defence.

We’ve had a lot of success treating cancer with immunotherapy, a groundbreaking treatment for many types of cancers including melanoma. We are building on this success and working to develop more effective and personalised treatment that incorporates advanced technology, highly-skilled staff, and state-of-the-art facilities.’

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