We all love to be in the sun and it can be highly beneficial for our bodies, but extended and unprotected exposure can lead to skin cancer. Today one in every five Americans is affected by skin cancer
Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells and if left unchecked, these cancer cells can spread from the skin into other tissues and organs in the body and that can be fatal if it is allowed to occur.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States but the two most common types of skin cancer, basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are highly curable. However, melanoma, the third most common skin cancer, is more dangerous, especially among young people. About 65%–90% of melanomas are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light or sunlight.
We also need to recognize that skin cancer that once only thought to affect the aged, is now occurring in alarming high rates in young people.
So what can we do to try and prevent skin cancer?
The key is to avoid being unprotected in the sun for extended periods or using sunlamps. If you’re going to be in the sun for any length of time, wear clothing made from tightly-woven fabric to prevent the sun’s rays reaching your skin; and stay in the shade when you can. Long sleeves and a wide-brimmed hats offer good protection for your face, neck, shoulders and ears, areas that are more repeatedly exposed to the sun.
Besides staying out of the sun and wearing the right kind of clothing whenever possible, use sunscreen to help protect your skin. But don’t think that you’re completely safe from the sun just because you’re wearing sunscreen. Skin Cancer cannot give you 100% protection against the sun’s harmful UV radiation
The sun’s rays, which are called ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B rays (UVA and UVB rays) damage your skin and leads to early wrinkles,skin cancer and other skin problems. Remember, a tan is the body’s attempt to protect itself from the sun’s harmful rays.
Some of the factors that may put you at higher risk of having skin cancer are:
- Having fair skin, red or blond hair
- Having light-colored eyes
- Sun burning easily
- Having many moles, freckles or birthmarks
- Working or playing outside
- Being in the sun a lot as a child
- Having had a serious sunburn
- Having had skin cancer, or having family members who have had skin cancer
- Tanning in the sun or with a sunlamp
We should all try at least once a month to self examine our skin all over our bodies and take note of moles, birthmarks, discolorations, spots and sores. Visit your dermatologist and receive a complete skin exam because early detection of skin cancer leads to a higher success of cure.
The treatment options for skin cancer depend on the type of skin cancer you have. The doctor will do a visual examination of the skin and if it looks suspicious a biopsy (removal and examination of a small section of tissue) will be performed. Treatments range from surgery to radiation to chemotherapy, and you and your doctor will discuss the best course of action.
Remember, over 90% of all forms of skin cancers result from overexposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. And most skin cancers are not life-threatening and can be cured when detected early on. Melanomas, while accounting for roughly 5% of skin cancers, account for more than 80% of all skin cancer deaths.