Skin cancer should be your biggest concern when it comes to caring for your skin. Understanding why skin cancer happens can also answer where it’s most common and what you can do to prevent it.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the world. Fortunately, when it’s detected early, it’s also one of the most treatable forms of cancer. Skin cancer, like other cancers, occurs when skin cells mutate and replicate at an accelerated pace. These replicating cells form a tumor or lesion on the skin. This lesion can be benign, meaning it’s not at risk to spread, or malignant, meaning it can spread to other organs in the body. Skin cancer has many different forms, and it’s usually broken down into two broad categories: melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancers. Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer because it moves quickly, giving it the ability to spread to internal organs much faster than other types of skin cancer. All types of skin cancer can be deadly, however. That cannot be overstated. Early detection and medical intervention are crucial in preventing the risk of death.
Skin cancer can happen for a few different reasons, but the main cause is sun damage.
Over 80% of all skin cancers are attributed to sun damage, and it doesn’t take much for it to appear later in a person’s life. Sun damage is a broad term for any damage caused by ultraviolet radiation. Though almost exclusively contained in sunlight, UV radiation also comes from tanning bed lights and a few other artificial sources. UV radiation penetrates the skin and damages cells. When our skin cells die, new ones need to be produced. This process is natural, but when it's accelerated by sun damage on many occasions, the DNA of your skin itself is damaged and changed.
People who have had five or more severe sunburns in their lives are far more likely to develop skin cancer than people who have not. One in five Americans develops skin cancer by the time they’re 70. Thousands of Americans die of skin cancer each year, but if it’s caught early, it can usually be treated by your dermatologist in an office setting. Schedule routine exams with your dermatologist to make sure that any problems are caught and handled easily.
Since skin cancer is the result of sun damage, it most often occurs in areas of the skin that are most prone to sun damage. This includes the scalp, face, nose, ears, neck, shoulders, and legs. In people who tanned, whether in the sun or in tanning beds, that extends to the back, legs, stomach, etc. The reality of skin cancer is that it can occur anywhere. Your skin is your body’s largest organ, and the skin cells are the same practically everywhere. Mutations don’t have to occur in areas directly damaged by sunlight, but that’s where they’re most common.
Think of the areas of your body that most feel the heat of the sun when you’re outdoors, and that’s where skin cancer is more common. There are a variety of things you can do to prevent sun damage and protect your skin from ultraviolet radiation, but the best thing to do for yourself is wear sunscreen each day. Sun damage happens year round, so it’s not limited to the summer, and it’s best to recognize that early on. Unfortunately, skin cancer can rear its ugly head anywhere on the body. Make sure you’re performing self-evaluations of your skin and visiting a dermatologist regularly. Take sun safe precautions all year round and pay close attention to problem areas. You can’t undo mistakes and sunburns you’ve had in the past, but you can keep an eye out for developing problems and prevent future damage.
Knowing where skin cancer can strike and how it works are only part of the battle. If you need more advice on preventing sun damage or are interested in scheduling routine skin checks, call us at Northeast Dermatology Associates today.
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