Skin cancer is easily the most common cancer in the world. Although most cases can be cured if diagnosed early, it is a major health concern because it affects so many people. Skin cancers can usually be prevented by limiting ultraviolet radiation. Luckily, malignant skin tumors usually become visible on the skin, making skin cancer easily detectable in its early stages. However, it’s still important to understand how skin cancer develops, what the causes are and how to prevent it.
What are the types of skin cancer?
There are three main types of skin cancers that can become severe including basal cell, squamous cell, and melanoma skin cancer.
- Melanoma – This type of skin cancer begins in the pigment cells, or melanocytes, usually on the skin. Melanoma is the most aggressive and life-threatening form of skin cancer and should receive medical attention immediately. It can occur on any area of the body, but it is more likely on the chest, back, neck and face. Men have a higher diagnose rate with melanoma than women and it can be far more serious than other skin cancers because it may spread to other parts of the body if left untreated.
- Basal cell skin cancer – The most common form of skin cancer (~80% of all types) and the most curable, this skin cancer begins in the basal cell layer of the skin. The most common place to find basal cell skin cancer is the face and skin frequently exposed to the sun. People with fair skin have a higher risk of developing basal cell skin cancer. Although it’s much less likely than other skin cancers to spread to other parts of the body, it is still necessary to seek treatment as soon as possible. If left untreated, it may grow and disrupt nearby tissues or organs.
- Squamous cell skin cancer – This begins in the squamous cells and is the most common type of skin cancer for people with darker skin. Squamous cell skin cancer can occur on either sun-exposed or covered areas of the skin. Similar to basal cell skin cancer, squamous cell skin cancer may spread to other areas of the body, but is much less likely than melanoma.
If and when the skin cancer spreads, the cancer cells break away from the growth and enter blood vessels or lymph vessels. The spread of cancer, called metastasis, can be very serious since it can affect the whole body.
What are the main causes of melanoma?
Like all skin cancers, the main cause of melanoma is the over-exposure to the UV rays of the sun, but it can also be found on non-exposed areas as well. This can develop whether you spend continuous time in the sun or have suffered from a blistering sunburn after one visit to the beach. It is important to understand that UV exposure from sunlamps or tanning beds are equally dangerous risk factors. Although this is the most common cause, there are other factors that make it more likely for people to get melanoma.
Skin type, hair color and color of the eyes are all risk factors that contribute to melanoma. Fair skinned individuals, who are likely to freckle or sunburn, are at a greater risk. Additionally, those with blonde hair and green or blue eyes are also most likely to develop melanoma. People with moles or birthmarks should especially be aware of changes, such as growth, bleeding and change in color. Any significant or abnormal changes should be evaluated by a professional immediately to prevent further skin cancer complications.
How can melanoma be prevented?
Here are some simple precautions if you are at risk for melanoma:
- Avoid the sun’s rays from 10 in the morning to 2 in the afternoon
- When out in the sun in Lake Mary, FL ensure you wear UV protection sunglasses
- Wear sunscreen with a SPF of 30 or higher
- Wear ultraviolet protection factor clothing
- If you have a family history, report any changes in skin pigment and get moles check annually by your primary physician, dermatologist, or plastic surgeon.