Skin Cancer Awareness Month: Do You Know the Risk Factors for Skin Cancer?
What Are the Risks of Skin Cancer?
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by the time they’re 70 years old. This shocking statistic is somewhat balanced by a more hopeful one: the 5-year survival rate for those with melanoma is 99% when it is discovered early on. In other words, while skin cancer is extremely prevalent in the U.S. and around the world, it is also highly curable in many cases. Skin cancer is quite preventable, too. That said, proper prevention and treatment depend on knowing about the risk factors and early signs of skin cancer.
As we continue observing Skin Cancer Awareness Month, let’s go over the various skin cancer risk factors to watch for.
Environmental Skin Cancer Risk Factors
Our bodies are inextricably linked to our environments. And while we rely on external forces to survive, these forces can also pose a threat to our health. Ultraviolet radiation from the sun is the leading factor that puts people at risk of skin cancer. Your skin can experience sun damage quickly, especially if it is unprotected by sunscreen or clothing. When your skin is left exposed for too long, the UV radiation can penetrate the surface and damage the DNA of your cells, leading to injury and possibly mutation. Those who live in regularly sunny, high-altitude regions are at the greatest risk because of the sun’s proximity, strength, and frequent appearance.
Other environmental factors can lead to skin cancer as well, such as exposure to certain chemicals like arsenic, tar, coal, and more. Of course, most people aren’t regularly exposed to these substances unless their job requires it, whereas sunlight affects us all.
Genetic Skin Cancer Risk Factors
For better or worse, our genetic circumstances play a role in our overall health outlooks. Unfortunately, some people are inherently at greater risk of developing skin cancer from the time they are born. More specifically, you are in a higher category of risk if you have:
- A family history of skin cancer (especially if in your immediate family)
- Fair/light skin
- Blonde or red hair
- Light-colored eyes
- Moles (especially if some are abnormal and/or you have more than 10)
While one’s genetics are predetermined and suggest likely health outcomes, an individual’s actual health history is never set in stone. That said, it becomes easier to gauge a person’s propensity to develop certain diseases as time goes on and their health history becomes more complete. Those who have suffered from certain conditions in the past and/or are currently taking certain medications are at greater risk of skin cancer in the future. These conditions and circumstances include but are not limited to:
- A previous case(s) of skin cancer
- A history of sunburns
- Exposure to radiation from treating other skin conditions (i.e. acne, eczema, etc.)
- Weakened/compromised immune system (i.e. those with HIV/AIDS or who take immunosuppressant medications)
- Precancerous skin lesions (i.e. actinic keratoses)
Lifestyle Choices and Circumstances
The way you live your life can also put you at greater risk of a skin cancer prognosis. Those who regularly tan their skin (whether in the sun or in a tanning booth), smoke, work outdoors, and/or are exposed to various chemicals and/or radiation for whatever reason all increase their chances of some form of skin cancer.
Knowing the risk factors for skin cancer will help you better understand your own level of risk and take steps to reduce that risk level in every way possible. In addition to taking these prevention steps, it’s also crucial to receive regular skin cancer screenings from your dermatologist to keep tabs on your skin and detect warning signs and other potential problems that need resolving. The sooner you detect skin cancer, the better your odds are of beating it. At Premier Dermatology Partners, we want to help our patients do everything they can to stop skin cancer in its tracks. To learn more about our providers and all the services we offer, contact us today.