Although skin cancer typically occurs later in life, it can happen at any age. It is crucial to protect your and your children’s skin from the sun’s harmful rays starting at a young age. Even in cloudy weather, the sun can cause painful burns that can later turn into life-threatening cancers. The sun is also the main cause of your skin’s aging and wrinkles. Learn more about the types of skin cancers, what groups are most at risk, how to prevent skin cancer, and what to do if you’re afraid you’ve spent one too many afternoons in the sun.
The number one cause of skin cancer is sun-related exposure. Exposure can be spread out over long periods of time, or it could be short bursts of intense exposure that causes cancerous cells to emerge later in life. Ultraviolet lighting in the sunlight damages the DNA in cells, which eventually can turn into skin cancer. Some other causes of skin cancer exist, such as chemicals, past radiation, and genetic factors. However, these are less likely to blame compared to sun exposure. The three primary factors determining your skin cancer risk are the use of tanning beds, fairer skin pigmentation or skin that burns easily, and spending lots of time outdoors without proper protection. Older age and family history of skin cancer can also increase your risk.
The two main types of skin cancers are basal cell carcinomas (BCC) and squamous cell carcinomas (SCC). There’s also a type called melanoma, which happens to be the most dangerous. However, most skin cancers are BCC, which occurs in areas that have been exposed to the sun like your face, legs, or back. SCC commonly occurs around the head/neck, hands, and forearms. It’s rare for either BCCs or SCCs to spread. Melanomas are the rarest, but they’re also the most deadly. The pigmentation of skin cells is altered and it tends to look more like a bruise or mole. Making yourself familiar with these three types will help when you’re doing a self-exam to check if any moles change or unusual bumps appear over time.
The primary way to prevent skin cancer is by limiting sun exposure over your entire lifetime. For starters, use sunscreen with as SPF of 30 or higher; high UVA and UVB protection is important as well. Make sure to reapply your sunscreen often, especially if you’re in the water. If you are spending time outdoors, try to limit exposure between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. when the sun is at its brightest. Protect yourself with clothing as well. Wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, light clothing, and long sleeves can efficiently block the sun’s rays. Even an umbrella on a walk or using a beach umbrella while sunbathing can help deflect the sun’s rays. Also, avoid tanning beds at all costs. Sometimes, the UV rays from a tanning bed can be up to 15 times more intense than the midday sun!
Checking your moles, freckles, and skin texture when you shower or undress is one of the best ways to prevent skin disease from getting out of control. Get to know your body. If you notice any changes in a mole’s shape, size, or color, it’s best to have a professional check it out. It doesn’t always mean cancer, but getting yearly screenings at a dermatologist also helps keep everything in check. Screenings are even more important if you’re in the higher risk factor groups for skin cancers. Seeing a dermatologist rather than your family doctor will ensure that you get specialized, knowledgeable treatment. The sooner treatment begins, the better. This is also a good time to ask your dermatologist about a good skincare routine or treatments for fine lines or age spots.
The good news is that if you follow preventative measures, skin cancer is more unlikely. If you do end up needing a mole or mark removed, surgery is quick and simple. Several different surgical and non-surgical options exist depending on the location and type of mole. Chemotherapy, radiotherapy, photodynamic therapy, and immunotherapy are usually only used in very serious instances, occurring typically with advanced melanomas. Even if the news isn’t good, there are definitely options. The best way to cure is to prevent.
If you have any questionable moles or skin concerns due to sun damage, contact The Dermatology Clinic today to schedule a consultation with a trusted dermatologist. Our doctors can set you up on a screening schedule and a skincare routine to help battle any sun damage you’ve encountered and to prevent any from occurring in the future. We’re happy to address your concerns and get you set up on a regime to eliminate your skin anxieties!