According to the American Academy of Dermatology of Association, 1 in 5 Americans suffer from skin cancer. Besides, about 9,500 individuals in the United States are diagnosed with the disease every day. Skin cancer can occur on any part of the body, but it’s most common in sun-exposed areas. The most prevalent skin cancers are basal cell carcinoma and Chevy Chase squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).
These cancers are called “nonmelanoma” because they do not produce melanin pigment, which causes skin coloration or tanning. Melanoma is a different type of cancer that occurs when pigment-producing cells in the skin are mutated or damaged, causing them to start producing melanin pigment.
Below are the risk factors for skin cancer;
Skin that has been damaged by the sun or ultraviolet radiation (UV light) over many years may be at risk of developing skin cancer. This includes having a burn or tanning bed and being outdoors in the midday sun for long periods without protective clothing and sunscreen.
Fair-skinned individuals have little or no natural protection from the sun’s UV rays because they have little pigment in their skin (eumelanin). People with these characteristics are more likely to develop skin cancers on any part of their body.
A family history of melanoma or other types of skin cancer at an early age before 35 years is a key risk factor. Genetic predisposition also increases your risk for developing melanoma if you have a parent who had melanoma before age 35.
The three most important things you can do to prevent skin cancer are:
Wear sunscreen every day, even on cloudy days: Sunscreen should have an SPF of 15 or higher and cover at least 75% of your body. The SPF level tells how long it will take for the skin to burn after being exposed to that amount of UVB light, the longer it takes, the more protection.
Avoid tanning beds: The ultraviolet radiation from sunlight is the biggest risk for skin cancer. The longer you are exposed to sunlight, the higher your risk of developing skin cancer. UVA and UVB rays from the sun are responsible for both tanning and DNA damage, which can lead to skin cancer.
Get regular professional exams: Regular skin exams are key because they detect precancerous changes in the skin that may lead to deadly melanoma in as little as five years later if they are not caught early enough. Your doctor can also spot early signs of skin damage from sun exposure such as uneven pigmentation and freckles. If you have any moles or birthmarks that tend to change shape or color, or if any one area of your body seems unusually sensitive or tender, see a dermatologist immediately for an exam and evaluation.
The best way to protect yourself from skin cancer is to get regular skin exams from your doctor, especially if you’re at risk for developing melanoma or other types of skin cancer due to genetic mutations or a history of sunburns or tanning beds, seek help from Ali Hendi, MD.