Skin Cancer What it is:
There are two main types of skin cancer:
Melanoma is the less common, but more dangerous form of skin cancer, and accounts for most of the deaths due to skin cancer each year. Melanoma is cancer that begins in the epidermal cells that produce melanin (melanocytes). According to the American Cancer Society (ACS) melanoma is almost always curable when detected in its early stages.
Non-melanomas (basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas) occur in the basal or squamous cells located at the base of the epidermis, both inside and outside the body. Non-melanomas often develop in sun-exposed areas of the body, including the face, ears, neck, lips, and the backs of the hands.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), offers a checklist to help determine your risk of developing skin cancer: What is Your Risk? Checklist.
Why it happens:
Predisposition to skin cancer can be hereditary, meaning it is passed through the generations of a family through genes. There is also strong evidence suggesting that exposure to UV rays, both UVA and UVB, can cause skin cancer.
UV radiation may promote skin cancer in two different ways:
By damaging the DNA in skin cells, causing the skin to grow abnormally and develop benign or malignant growths.
By weakening the immune system and compromising the body’s natural defenses against aggressive cancer cells.
Performing regular self skin cancer exams is a good way to protect yourself against skin cancer. The following are possible signs of skin cancer, and should be checked by a doctor.
Any changes on the skin, especially in the size or color of a mole, birthmark, or other dark pigmentation
Unexplained scaliness, oozing, or bleeding on the skin's surface
A spot on the skin that suddenly feels itchy, tender, or painful
Skin cancer treatment varies depending on the type and severity of the cancer. Your doctor will develop a treatment plan based on your needs.
The Bottom Line:
According to the American Cancer Society, most of the more than one million skin cancers diagnosed each year in the U.S. are considered sun-related. Skin cancer occurs in people of all skin tones, though it is less common in those with darker skin tones. Assessing your risk with the help of your doctor, protecting your skin, and performing regular skin cancer checks are the best methods of prevention.