Fast Facts on Skin Cancer
By now we’ve all heard the spiel: put on sunscreen unless you want to get skin cancer. But with May’s “Skin Cancer Awareness” month, we thought it is important to answer some questions that you may have on skin cancer. Today, we’re going to lay it all out for you, in ‘skin cancer fast facts.’
The Main Types of Skin Cancer:
We’ve all heard of the ‘deadly’ Melanoma, but did you know that while Melanoma is the most dangerous, as it’s the most likely to spread, it is actually the least common of the skin cancers? Two of the lesser known, but more common cancers are: Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). Basal cell and Squamous cell carcinomas affect the cells in the top layer of skin, scientifically known as the epidermis. The epidermis is made up of four layers with the squamous cells being the flat cells in the outermost layer and the basal cells form the lowest layer.
What Exactly is Cancer?
The short answer: Cancer is the development of abnormal cells that divide uncontrollably and have the ability to infiltrate and destroy normal body tissue. Since this is such a broad description, it makes sense that there are so many different versions and characteristics of cancer.
Who’s At Risk?
Anyone can get skin cancer in the “right” conditions, however the Center for Disease Control (CDC) lists out some specific risk factors to be aware of:
- A lighter natural skin color.
- Family history of skin cancer.
- A personal history of skin cancer.
- Exposure to the sun through work and play.
- A history of sunburns, especially early in life.
- A history of indoor tanning.
- Skin that burns, freckles, reddens easily, or becomes painful in the sun.
- Blue or green eyes.
- Blond or red hair.
- Certain types and a large number of moles.
What Causes Skin Cancer?
If you spend a lot of time in the sun without the proper protection, or find yourself ticking off a lot of the boxes on the list of risk factors mentioned above, you are at a higher risk of getting skin cancer. Skin cancer occurs when errors (mutations) occur in the DNA of skin cells. The mutations cause the cells to grow out of control and form a mass of cancer cells. Most cases of skin cancer are caused by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) light produced by the sun.
How To Spot Cancer:
**When in doubt see a doctor (dermatologist)!**
It’s important to regularly check yourself for signs of cancer. If a suspicious spot is found, your doctor will first examine the area, noting its size, shape, color and texture, as well as any bleeding or scaling. Your doctor may also examine nearby lymph nodes to see whether they are enlarged. If your doctor suspects cancer, you may need a biopsy. During this procedure, the doctor removes a bit of the abnormal skin for further testing.
Should your dermatologist determine you have skin cancer, be it BCC or SCC, it can be removed it in office. However, should your doctor diagnose the cancer as Melanoma, you will need more aggressive treatment options, such as surgery or immunotherapy.
Prevention is Key:
If your goal is to avoid skin cancer, prevention is your best bet. Some people are more prone to skin cancer due to genetics, but there still are steps everyone can take to aid in prevention. The most important form of prevention, other than covering up and staying in the shade, is ensuring to ALWAYS wear sunscreen when outside. Even if it’s overcast outside the sun is still there and those pesky UV rays still hit your skin. A good sunscreen, such as PROTECT ME, with a minimum 30 SPF, water resistance, and broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection, is recommended.
Strides Against Skin Cancer
Taking care of your skin is important on many different levels. Skin cancer for many of us is easily prevented with the proper precautions. That is why skin cancer education, prevention, and treatment are so important. If you want to help raise funds for skin cancer awareness register for the third annual Strides Against Skin Cancer 5K/10K Walk/Run on Sunday, May 20, 2018.
To learn more on how to choose an SPF moisturizer for sweaty skin read our blog here.