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What Is a Skin Neoplasm?

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  • Written By: J.M. Willhite
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 03 July 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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A skin neoplasm is a lesion that originates from erratic cellular reproduction. Commonly associated with habitual sun exposure, a skin neoplasm may form even if an individual possesses no history of sun bathing. Treatment for a skin neoplasm is dependent on several factors, including the location and type of lesion, and usually involves the surgical excision of the neoplastic tissue. An invasive or recurrent skin neoplasm may necessitate more extensive treatment that can include subsequent chemo and radiation therapies, as well as cosmetic surgery.

Noticeable changes in one’s skin generally prompts a visit to the doctor for a closer examination. A preliminary assessment of a skin neoplasm frequently requires a biopsy of the lesion, which involves the partial or complete removal of the growth for laboratory analysis. If the sample is deemed malignant, it is further analyzed to determine its staging, or severity.

The neoplastic growth of skin cells is generally precipitated by changes to a cell's genetic makeup and life cycle. Why the mutation and erratic cell production occurs or what triggers it are unknown. Originating in the epidermal layer, a skin neoplasm can become progressively invasive, affecting deeper layers of the skin as it matures. The type of neoplastic growth diagnosed is dependent on the cells affected by the mutation.

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Squamous and basal cells, found within and near the skin's surface, are most often affected by neoplastic activity. These cancers are classified as non-melanomas and are among the most frequently diagnosed, affecting more than 2 million people across the globe each year. Melanomas, those cancers originating in the cells responsible for pigmentation, are considered the most aggressive and yet are relatively uncommon. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 132,000 people worldwide are affected by melanoma cancer annually.

Skin neoplasm development can occur anywhere on the body. The presentation of the growth is generally dependent on the type and severity of the malignancy. Individuals generally notice a bump or lesion that may possess a different texture and color than the surrounding skin. Others may find that an existing mole or age spot has changed shape or adopted a darker pigmentation.

Neoplastic lesions suspected of being malignant are generally removed in their entirety as part of the diagnostic process. Lesions that return, and those that are only partially excised, may necessitate additional treatment. Extreme temperatures are frequently used, such as cryo- and laser therapies, to eliminate a skin neoplasm. Invasive neoplastic growths can require the excision of surrounding tissues, necessitating skin grafting and in some cases reconstructive surgery. If the cancer has metastasized, subsequent chemo and radiation therapies may be used to eliminate any malignant cells that remain.

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