Summer has been over for several months now, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to put away the sunscreen and lower your defenses against skin cancer. On the contrary, now is a great time to brush up on your skin cancer knowledge so you stay smart, safe, and healthy. Here are the top five things to know about skin cancer.
No one is immune to getting skin cancer. In fact, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the world. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, 20% (1 in 5) of Americans will develop skin cancer by the time they reach 70 years of age. As such, it’s crucial for every individual to take the proper precautions and maintain an understanding of what puts them at risk. Some people are naturally at greater risk of getting skin cancer than others due to genetic and environmental factors. These skin cancer risk factors include but are not limited to:
Fair skin and/or hair
Numerous moles (atypical mole syndrome)
Being older (those over 60 years of age are at greatest risk)
A personal and/or family history of skin cancer
Knowing your level of risk can help you stay healthy and safe.
The vast majority of skin cancer cases are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The sun is the most prominent source of this UV energy, but tanning beds and sun lamps also emit UV rays. Skin cancer forms when one’s skin is bombarded with enough UV energy to damage the DNA of skin cells. This mutation can lead to abnormal and uncontrollable cell growth. While the skin can undergo sun damage without developing cancer, any form of sun damage increases one’s risk of getting skin cancer down the line. For this reason, protecting your skin from the sun and other sources of UV radiation is the best defense against skin cancer.
There is more than one kind of skin cancer -- the three main categories of this condition are squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), basal cell carcinoma (BCC), and melanoma -- the first two (SCC and BCC) are also classified together as nonmelanoma skin cancers. The differences between these types of skin cancer are based on the affected cells -- BCC, for instance, refers to cancer that occurs in the basal cells, whereas melanoma refers to cancer that begins in the melanocytes (the pigment cells that lie deeper in the skin). All three variations of skin cancer are worth preventing and treating as quickly as possible, but melanoma is the most dangerous.
In fact, melanoma can be deadly. The Skin Cancer Foundation estimates that approximately 6,850 people will die from melanoma in the U.S. by the end of 2020. This type of skin cancer poses such a threat because it can spread to other parts of the body. Nonmelanoma skin cancers, on the other hand, rarely extend beyond the original site, though they can lead to disfiguration and other complications.
Fortunately, virtually all types of skin cancer (melanoma included) can be treated and cured when caught early enough. This is because the more recent a tumor is, the less of a chance it has to spread beyond the original site. So, knowing what to look for regarding the early signs of skin cancer is crucial to keeping yourself safe and healthy. Melanomas tend to resemble and/or stem from moles and typically have an irregular shape, color, and/or texture. BCCs and SCCs tend to develop on areas of skin typically exposed to the sun, such as the ears, nose, face, head, and neck. An SCC often looks like a large scaly scab and feels tender to the touch, while a BCC may be smooth, waxy, and white, or brown/black for those with darker skin.
Of course, it isn’t always easy to detect skin cancer on your own, which is why it’s important to receive skin cancer screenings on a regular basis and whenever you’re concerned about a particular mole or lesion. Your dermatologist can take a closer look and perform necessary tests to check for skin cancer. If skin cancer is found early on, they can usually remove it via various methods depending on the type, size, and depth of the tumor.
Even during the coldest months of winter, skin cancer can rear its ugly head. At Premier Dermatology Partners, one of our missions is to help patients maintain awareness of skin cancer so they can better protect themselves and their loved ones year-round. To learn more about our providers and all the services we offer, contact us today.