Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States.
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is the main cause of skin cancer. But there is good news. Skin cancer has a greater chance of being cured when it’s found and treated early.
This May, we encourage you to spread the word about skin cancer prevention and urge your family and friends to get their skin checked.
What are the different types of skin cancer?
Skin cancer is an abnormal growth of skin cells that develops on areas of the skin exposed to the sun’s UVA & UVB rays. There are many types of skin cancer including:
Actinic Keratosis – Dry, scaly patches or spots.
- Typically those diagnosed with actinic keratosis have fair skin.
- Most people see this develop after the age of 40 from years of sun exposure.
- Actinic keratosis typically forms on the skin exposed to lots of sun such as the head, neck, hands and forearms.
Basal Cell Carcinoma – The most common type of skin cancer.
- This skin cancer frequently develops in people who have fair skin.
- It looks like a flesh-colored, pearl-like bump or a pinkish patch of skin.
- It usually develops after years of frequent sun exposure or indoor tanning.
- The head, neck and arms are the most common areas where Basal Cell Carcinoma is found.
- Early diagnosis and treatment is important.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) – The second most common type of skin cancer.
- People who have light skin are most likely to develop SCC, yet it can develop in darker-skinned people.
- Appears as a red, firm bump, scaly patch, or a sore that heals and then reopens.
- Tends to form on skin that gets frequent skin exposure, such as the rim of the ear, face, neck, arms, chest, or back. SSC can grow deep in the skin and cause damage and disfigurement.
- Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent this and stop SCC from spreading to other areas of the body.
Melanoma – The deadliest form of skin cancer.
- It frequently develops in a mole or suddenly appears as a new dark spot on the skin.
- Early diagnosis and treatment is critical.
Early Detection is Key
As mentioned above, skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. Each year in the U.S. over 5.4 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are treated in more than 3.3 million people. It is also the easiest to cure, if diagnosed and treated early. When allowed to progress, however, skin cancer can result in disfigurement and even death.
It is helpful to have a doctor do an initial full-body exam first to assure you that any existing spots, freckles, or moles are normal or treat those that may not be. In between your annual spot-check appointments, you should preform monthly self-examinations. After the first few times, self-examination should take no more than 10 minutes — a small investment in what could be a life-saving procedure.
If you note any change in an existing mole, freckle, or spot or if you find a new one with any of the warning signs of skin cancer, don’t overlook it.
Statistics to Encourage Your Loved Ones to Get Checked
- Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States.
- More skin cancers are diagnosed each year than all other cancers combined.
- 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime.
- One person dies of melanoma every hour.
- 86% of melanomas can be attributed to exposure to UV radiation from the sun.
- On average, a person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has more than 5 sunburns in their lifetime.
- Regular use of an SPF 15 or higher reduces the risk of melanoma by 50%.
- From ages 15-39, men are 55% more likely to die of melanoma than women in the same age group.
- The majority of people diagnosed with melanoma are white men over the age 55.
- Melanoma rates in the U.S. doubled from 1982 to 2011.
The Dangers of Using Tanning Beds
- More than 419,000 cases of skin cancer are linked to indoor tanning.
- More people develop skin cancer because of tanning than those with lung cancer because of smoking.
- Individuals who have ever used tanning beds have a 34% increased risk of developing melanoma compared to those who have never used tanning beds.
- People who first use a tanning bed before age 35 increases their risk for melanoma by 75%.
- Those who have ever tanned indoors have a 69% risk of developing basal cell carcinoma before age 40.
Ethnicity and Skin Cancer
- The estimated 5-year melanoma survival rate for African Americans is only 69%, versus 93% for Caucasians.
- Skin cancer represents approximately 2-4% of all cancers in Asians.
- Skin cancer comprises 1-2% of all cancers in African Americans and Asian Indians
- 26% of Hispanic patients with melanoma aren’t diagnosed until the cancer has progressed to the late stages. This vastly increases their risk of death.
Skin Cancer Myths
There’s no such thing as a healthy tan. Any change in your natural skin color is a sign of skin damage. Over time, being in the sun can lead to skin cancer.
Though naturally dark people have a lower risk of skin cancer than fair-toned people, this doesn’t mean they’re immune to skin cancer. Also, cases of skin cancer in people with dark skin tones are not detected until later stages, which is even more dangerous.
Melanoma is the most common form of cancer in young adults, ages 25 to 29. Always check your skin and be alert to any mole changes.
A base tan only gives your skin an SPF of 3-4 and you are supposed to use SPF30 for adequate protection. All tans can serve as a precursor to skin cancer.
Skin cancer can develop on any part of your body. And if you develop skin cancer in one of these suspicious places: your genitals, palms of your hands, soles of your feet, underneath your nails, etc., it can be more deadly.
If you’re using sunscreen incorrectly, you are putting yourself at risk. Apply 15 to 30 minutes before you go outside. Use an ounce of SPF 30 to cover your entire body. Reapply every two hours or every hour if you’re swimming and/or sweating.
Some makeup offers SPF, but most people don’t wear enough to completely protect you. It is recommended that you use a sunscreen in addition to your cosmetics.