What Do You Need To Know About Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer. More new cases are diagnosed each year than cases of prostate, breast, lung, and colon cancers combined. There are three types of skin cancer. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common. It arises from the deepest layers of the outer layer of skin. It’s treatable, but can be disfiguring if left unaddressed. Research suggests that sunscreen use may not adequately protect against this form of skin cancer. About 2.8 million cases are diagnosed annually, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
Squamous cell carcinoma, which is also common, is alsohighly treatable. It is seldom deadly. It arises from cells in the upper layers of the skin, and is clearly linked to cumulative sun exposure. That’s one of the reasons it’s thought to be wise to avoid sunburn at any age. The risk of this form of cancer rises with each burn. About 700,000 cases are diagnosed each year in the US, but only about 2,500 deaths annually can be attributed to squamous cell carcinoma. Alarmingly, the incidence of this disease has risen by 200% over the past three decades.
Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. Although it only accounts for about 5% of skin cancers, it’s also responsible for the greatest number of deaths. Although the incidence of this awful disease is steadily rising, survival rates have improved dramatically since the 1950s. Much of that improvement is due to better screening, awareness, and treatment. About 86% of melanomas can be attributed to ultraviolet radiation exposure from the sun (or tanning beds).
The Skin Cancer Foundation and other sources recommend the following steps to reduce your risk of skin aging and skin cancer.
1) Seek shade, especially between the “prime burning hours” of 10 am to 4 pm. 2) Avoid tanning beds. They are linked to dramatically increased risks of skin cancer. Use of tanning beds before the age of 30 has been linked to a 75% increase in the risk of melanoma.
3) Wear protective clothing in the sun, including hats and UV-blocking sunglasses. Consider wearing clothing with special built-in SPF if you’ll be out on the water or visiting the subtropics.
4) Use a broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen of SPF 15 or greater every day. Reapply as directed. Use the correct, recommended amounts. Use SPF 30 if you’ll be out in the sun for extended periods. Consider wearing water-resistant sunscreen if you’ll be sweating or swimming. Manufacturers can no longer claim that their products are waterproof.
5) See a doctor annually to be screened for the presence of skin cancer or actinic keratosis; an abnormality that may eventually develop into skin cancer.