Skin Cancer Terminology

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Skin Cancer Terminology

actinic keratosis - precancerous changes caused by UV radiation, which occurs mainly in sun exposed areas of the body (face, hands, scalp)

actinic cheilitis - actinic keratosis involving the lips

AIDS - an acronym for the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, late stage manifestation of an infection with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Complications may include an increased occurrence of certain skin cancers

amelanotic melanoma - melanoma that lacks the distinctive dark, brown-blackish coloration. It may appear reddish or pale in color

anesthetic - is a substance, typically injected into the skin, used in surgical procedures to numb the treated area

atopic - skin that is prone to allergies

atypia - term used to describe abnormal (potentially cancerous) tissue as seen under the microscope

atypical - skin cells showing atypia

autoimmune disease - condition in which the body tissues are recognized as foreign by the immune system and attacked by the body's own immune system

basal cell - small cells found at the bottom of the epidermis, the outer layer of the skin

basal cell carcinoma - most common type of skin cancer in humans

basement membrane - a layer of tissue deep to the epidermis, separating it from the dermis

benign - meaning not malignant, not cancerous

biopsy - removal of a sample of skin or tissue for the purpose of diagnosis

Bowen's Disease - a superficial form of skin cancer confined to the epidermis. Some feel that this is a precursor of squamous cell cancer

Carcinogen - A substance which is known to cause cancer. For example, UV-radiation is considered to be a carcinogen and increase the risk of skin cancer

carcinoma - A malignant tumor originating from epithelial cells

chronic - slowly developing, or of long duration

congenital - to exist and be noticeable at birth

cyst - a tissue cavity that contains fluid or viscous liquid and is surrounded by a tissue capsule

dermatologist - medical professional that mainly deals with diseases of the skin

dermis - second layer of the skin which resides below the epidermis. The dermis is responsible for the mechanical strength of our skin. It contains vessels, nerves and sweat glands

DNA - Deoxyribonucleic Acid, the molecule that encodes genetic information in humans. It dictates the structure, function and behavior of cells

dysplasia - abnormal growth of cells, felt to be the early phase of cancerous changes

dysplastic - term used to describe cells that show dysplasia

epidermis - top layer of the skin

epithelium - the covering skin and mucous membranes

erythema - redness of the skin

hair follicle - a tube-like opening in the epidermis where the hair shaft develops

keratinocytes - a type of cell found in our skin and the major constituent of the epidermis

keratoacanthoma - rapidly growing type of squamous cell carcinoma which usually occurs on sun-exposed skin. Its tissue is similar to that of a squamous cell carcinoma but, contrary to this type of tumor, keratoakanthoma may regress spontaneously. The disease affects almost only whites and most often men

lentigo maligna - a subtype of melanoma, typically very slow growing

leukoplakia - a white precancerous patch on mucous membranes

macule - a flat area which varies in color from the rest of skin

malignant - when referring to a tumor, this term implies a tendency to invade adjacent tissues and to spread to other areas or organs of the body

melanin - a dark biological pigment found in the skin and produced in the melanocytes

melanocyte - type of skin cell that is able to produce melanin

melanoma - cancer of the melanocytes, the most lethal type of skin cancer

metastasis - spreading of a cancer form its original site to another location in the body

mucosa - a moist layer that covers the inside of a hollow organ such as the mouth or the nose

neoplasia - abnormal growth of cells

papule - a dome-shaped growth that rises above the skin

photodynamic therapy - a type of therapy which uses photosensitizing agents (drugs which increase the skin's sensitivity to UV radiation) with subsequent exposure to light

plaque - a skin growth that is raised and broad

precancerous - condition defined as the potential preliminary phase of a cancer

premalignant - same as precancerous

prognosis - forecast of the disease course and survival

seborrhoeic keratosis - benign lesions that present as multiple oval, brown-to-black plaques

solar keratosis - same as actinic keratosis

squamous cell - flat thin cell found in the outer layer of the skin that looks like a fish scale under the microscope. Squamous cell carcinoma originates from these cells

SPF - the sun protection factor is the ratio used the measure the efficacy of sunscreens. If you usually burn after 10 minutes of unprotected time in the sun, when you use a sunscreen with SPF 15 you can stay 150 minutes in the sun without getting a sunburn

sweat gland - gland in the skin with an opening at the surface that secretes sweat

tumor - an abnormal mass of tissue which can have many different causes and which may be benign or malignant

ultraviolet radiation - invisible light whose most common source is the sun and which can burn the skin and cause skin cancer

xeroderma pigmentosum - a rare inherited disease characterized by extraordinary sensitivity to sunlight and the development of multiple skin cancers beginning at an early age

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