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Skin Cancer: Symptoms, Causes & Risk factors

Skin cancer risk factors

Skin cancer is one of the most deadly forms of cancer in the world. Know the following facts about it: 

● Approximately two people die from it every hour in the United States alone

● If you sunburn at least five times a year, you are twice as likely to develop melanoma as the normal population

● You have a 99% chance of surviving for at least five years after your melanoma has gone into remission if it is detected and treated early

● There are more than 9,500 deaths from various types of skin cancer daily in the United States alone

● 5.4 million non-melanoma cancer patients were detected and treated in 3.3 million people in the United States in 2012.

● If you develop precancerous cells, it will likely be actinic keratosis because it is the most common form of skin pre cancer which affects more than 58 million Americans

● The United States healthcare system (public, private, and government-funded) spends approximately 8.1 billion dollars diagnosing and treating various forms of skin cancer every year

● 77% more non-melanoma skin cancer cases were diagnosed and treated in the twenty years between 2004 and 2014. 

● 90% of all cancer cases are caused by exposure to radiation from ultraviolet light rays which are primarily found in sunlight and in tanning beds.

● Approximately 4.3 million Americans will be diagnosed with BCC in 2020.

● You are constantly exposed to radiation from ultraviolet light rays. This can either be from being in direct sunlight or from constant and/or excessive usage of tanning beds. 

● You have fairer (any shade of white) skin

● You have lighter colored irises. This includes hazel, blue, grey, and green colored irises

● You have red or blonde hair

● You live in a mountainous, a hilly area, or an area with high elevation which will give you more exposure to the Sun’s radiation filled ultraviolet light rays

● You live in the equatorial areas where the sunlight is more intense

● Your immune system is weaker

○ This can be caused by certain anti-rejection medications like Cyclosporine.

○ You can have a weaker immune system if you have certain diseases, infections, or viruses like HIV/AIDS.

○ Your immune system can be weakened by constant exposure to chemotherapy

● You are constantly exposed to arsenic or other chemicals/substances with radioactive materials

● You have previously had skin cancer

● You are older

● You have lots of certain types of moles

● You have a family history of skin cancer

How to reduce the risk?

You can go out in the Sun often and still not get skin cancer. The key lies in reducing your risk by taking certain preventive measures. One of these is to wear protective clothing when you go outside. The other is to use sunscreen to protect the top layer of your skin from burning and these cells’ DNA from mutating. Also, avoid using tanning booths as much as possible. It is safer to use a sun tanning lotion if you want that beautiful golden tan on your body and legs. You should also stay inside during peak sun hours. These are different from country to country and from region to region, but they are from 10 in the morning to 4 in the evening, in the United States. 

Causes of skin cancer

Doctors know that people get skin cancer when UV radiation causes the DNA in their uppermost layer of skin to mutate. These daughter cells thrive in their skin and eventually crowd out and kill normal skin cells, and that’s when damage to the skin and surrounding tissue and organs begins. Since some cases of skin cancer are not caused by UV radiation, doctors think that exposure to certain radioactive materials and chemicals can cause a few cases and types of skin cancer.

Symptoms of skin cancer

While you can get cancer on any part of your body, you will tend to get skin cancer in your neck, face, back, head, lips, ears, chest, arms, hands, and legs. Skin cancer can develop in your genital area and under your fingernails and toenails. Note that you can get skin cancer if you have darker skin (though this is rare.) Most people who develop skin cancer, however, have fairer skin.

The symptoms of skin cancer are different for the different types of cancer. For example, you know you likely have Basal Cell Carcinoma if you see bumps on your skin and neck that are pearly or waxy in texture. However, other symptoms of BCC include a flesh-coloured lesion that is flat and/or has a brown scar, or recurring bleeding sores or scabs.

Since you get Squamous Cell Carcinoma on those body parts which are constantly exposed to sunlight or other sources of UV light ray radiation, be on the lookout for the following:

● Red nodules 

● Flat lesions having crusty and scaly surfaces

If you experience the following, see a dermatologist and an oncologist to be screened for melanoma:

● An unusually shaped or coloured mole(s) on any part of your body

○ Pay special attention to your face and lower legs

● Large, brown spots that have freckles

● Bleeding moles or colour and shape-changing moles

● Small lesions with blue, red, pink, white, or blue-black irregular shaped borders

● Itching or burning lesions that hurt when touched

● Dark lesions on the soles of your feet and palms, fingertips, toes, and on the insides of your genital areas.

What is Skin Cancer | Types | Diagnosis | Treatment | FAQs