I wanted to write this article, because there’s so many things that you can do that can lower your risk of developing skin cancer, and I have found a lot of misleading information being shared. It forces me to research and learn and allows me to share with my “All Things Beauty” Community! There’s more than meets the eye when it comes to skin cancer, so make sure you know all the facts.
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, but it’s also the most preventable form of cancer there is. While some skin cancers are highly curable when caught in their early stages, others can be deadly. Anyone can get it, although some people are at higher risk of developing skin cancer than others.
My sources for this article are: Skin Cancer Foundation, American Cancer Society, Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. I have also hyperlinked some information directly to these sources so you can find out even more information.
1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70
- In the U.S., more than 9,500 people are diagnosed with skin cancer every day.
- More than two people die of the disease every hour.
- There are more than 5.4 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer were treated in over 3.3 million people in the U.S. in 2012, the most recent year new statistics were available.
- More people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the U.S. than all other cancers combined.
What Is Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer is the out-of-control growth of abnormal cells in the epidermis, the outermost skin layer, caused by unrepaired DNA damage that triggers mutations. These mutations lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors. The main types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), melanoma and Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC).
What causes skin cancer?
What are the risk factors for skin cancer?
When it comes to skin cancer, there are several risk factors that can contribute to the development of this disease. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to lower your risks.
More people develop skin cancer because of indoor tanning than develop lung cancer because of smoking.
Having 5 or more sunburns doubles your risk for melanoma.
Your skin type is a major factor in your risk for skin cancer, including melanoma. And while it’s true that people with fair skin tones are more at risk for sunburn, sun damage and skin cancer, UV exposure can raise skin cancer risk even if you tan and don’t burn.
All skin types and genders are at risk
No matter your skin type, UV radiation from the sun and other sources can cause dangerous, lasting damage to your skin. This means that people of any ethnic background, even those who always tan or rarely burn, can still get skin cancer.
In the U.S., men who are 49 and under have a higher probability of developing melanoma than any other cancer, and from ages 15 to 39, American men are 55 percent more likely to die of melanoma than women in the same age group.
- An estimated 90 percent of skin aging is caused by the sun.
- People who use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher daily show percent less skin aging than those who do not use sunscreen daily.
- Sun damage is cumulative. Only about 23 percent of lifetime exposure occurs by age 18.
|Ages||Average Accumulated Sun Exposure*|
|*Based on a 78-year life span|
Things you can do to help decrease your skin cancer risk
The sun sustains life and feels good, but it can be your skin’s worst enemy. While every sunburn can increase your risk of skin cancer, it’s not just those big days at the beach or ballgame that cause trouble. Each time you run out to get the mail, walk the dog or commute to work in the car without sun protection also adds to the damage that can lead to skin cancer (as well as leathery skin, dark spots and wrinkles).
No single method of sun defense can protect you perfectly, though so consider adding as many steps as you can.
It’s important to protect your skin all year long, even during winter.
Protect your children’s skin
Just a few serious sunburns can increase your child’s risk of skin cancer later in life. Kids don’t have to be at the pool, beach, or on vacation to get too much sun. Their skin needs protection from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays whenever they’re outdoors.
Here are different types of skin cancer
Basal cell carcinoma
Basal cell carcinomas (BCCs) are abnormal, uncontrolled growths that arise from the skin’s basal cells in the outermost layer of skin (epidermis).
Where is it usually found? These cancers most often develop on skin areas typically exposed to the sun, especially the face, ears, neck, scalp, shoulders and back.
What causes it? Most BCCs are caused by the combination of intermittent, intense exposure and cumulative, long-term exposure to UV radiation from the sun.
How many people get it? BCC is the most common form of skin cancer, with more than 4 million cases diagnosed in the United States each year.
How serious is it? BCCs can be locally destructive if not detected and treated early. Occasionally these cancers metastasize (spread); and in very rare instances they can be fatal.
Squamous cell carcinoma
What is it? Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells arising from the squamous cells in the outmost layer of skin (epidermis).
Where is it usually found? SCCs are common on sun-exposed areas such as the ears, face, scalp, neck and hands, where the skin often reveals signs of sun damage, including wrinkles and age spots.
What causes it? Cumulative, long-term exposure to UV radiation from the sun and tanning beds causes most SCCs.
How many people get it? SCC is the second most common form of skin cancer. More than 1 million cases are diagnosed each year in the U.S.
How serious is it? SCCs can sometimes grow rapidly and metastasize if not detected and treated early. As many as 15,000 deaths occur from invasive SCC of the skin each year in the U.S.
What is it? Melanoma is a cancer that develops from melanocytes, the skin cells that produce melanin pigment, which gives skin its color.
Where is it usually found? Melanomas often resemble moles and sometimes may arise from them. They can be found on any area of the body, even in areas that are not typically exposed to the sun.
What causes it? Melanoma is often triggered by the kind of intense, intermittent sun exposure that leads to sunburn. Tanning bed use also increases risk for melanoma.
How many people get it? In 2019, more than 192,000 new cases of melanoma are expected to occur in the U.S., about 96,000 of which will be invasive.
How serious is it? Melanoma is the most dangerous of the three most common forms of skin cancer. Melanomas can be curable when caught and treated early. In 2019, melanoma is projected to cause about 7,200 deaths.
Merkel cell carcinoma
What is it? Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a rare, aggressive skin cancer.
Where is it usually found? These tumors usually appear as firm, painless lesions or nodules on a sun-exposed area (about half of the time on the head and neck, and frequently on the eyelids).
What causes it? Usually associated with a virus called the Merkel cell polyomavirus, MCCs are believed to begin in Merkel cells at the base of the epidermis. They most often arise on sun-exposed areas in fair-skinned individuals over age 50.
How many people get it? About 2,500 new cases of MCC and about 700 deaths from it occur in the U.S. each year, and that is expected to rise.
How serious is it? MCCs are at high risk of recurring and metastasizing throughout the body, so early detection and treatment are crucial.
What are the symptoms of skin cancer?
Skin cancer is the cancer that you can see. Early detection saves lives. A change in your skin is the most common sign of skin cancer. Learning what to look for on your own skin gives you the power to detect cancer early when it’s easiest to cure, before it can become dangerous, disfiguring or deadly. This could be a new growth, a sore that doesn’t heal, or a change in a mole. Not all skin cancers look the same.
Examine your skin once a month
If you spot anything that just doesn’t look right, get it checked by your dermatologist as soon as possible.
See your dermatologist annually
Get a full-body, professional skin exam once a year or more often if you are at higher risk for skin cancer. Make the most of your appointment with these tips.
Some skin cancers are highly curable when caught in their early stages
The good news is that if skin cancer is caught early, your dermatologist can treat it with little or no scarring and high odds of eliminating it entirely.
When detected early, the 5-year survival rate for melanoma is 99 percent.
Often, the doctor may even detect the growth at a precancerous stage, before it has become a full-blown skin cancer or penetrated below the surface of the skin.