Would you risk your life for a good tan? It may sound absurd, but if you spend time sunbathing or in tanning beds, that’s exactly what you’re doing. Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays puts you at risk for skin cancer, even if you’re not trying to “get bronzed.”Half of Americans who live to be 65 will have skin cancer at least once, and 1 in 5 will develop it over the course of a lifetime. It is the most common type of cancer. The statistics are even more grim for those who started using a tanning bed before they turned 35.If you fall into this category, you’ve just increased your risk of melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer, by 75 percent.
How does skin cancer start?
When you have a sunburn, the damage actually causes mutations within your skin’s DNA. This creates abnormal cells which then begin to grow uncontrollably, creating a tumor.
What are the different types of skin cancer?
There are different types of skin cancer that are named after the type of cells involved.
The epidermis is the outermost layer of your skin. The epidermis is full of basal cells, which are responsible for creating new skin cells. Basal cell carcinoma starts in this layer of skin.
From there, the cancer can progress to squamous cell carcinoma, where it attacks cells that form the skin’s inner lining.
Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, affects the lower part of your epidermis. This part of your skin contains the pigment cells that determine the color of your skin.
How to spot skin cancer
How can you tell the difference between a regular mole and a cancerous tumor?
Often, you can’t.
It takes the trained eye of a local internal medicine physician or dermatologist to make an accurate diagnosis. However, if your see a spot on your skin with the following characteristics, schedule an appointment with one of our providers:
- It’s asymmetrical.
- It has irregular borders.
- It is a variety of colors/shades.
- It’s larger than an eraser at the end of a pencil.
- It’s evolved or changed over the years.
How is skin cancer treated?
The course of treatment depends upon the stage and type of the skin cancer.
Melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, may be treated by chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy or surgically removing the tumor. Tumors may also be treated with cryosurgery, where liquid nitrogen is used to freeze the tumor which then blisters and falls off.
How much do you know about skin cancer prevention? Take these useful quizzes.
We want all of our patients to be able to separate fact from fiction when it comes to skin cancer. The American Cancer Society has created this useful quiz to help you determine your risk factors and take steps to reduce your chances of developing skin cancer.
Remember that those with lighter skin tones are at greater risk of developing skin cancer. Not sure where your skin type fits in? This handy quiz from the Skin Cancer Foundation provides the answer.
At Raleigh Medical Group, we offer skin cancer screenings, and we highly recommend that they become a part of our patients’ yearly physicals. As with all cancers, the survival rate is higher if caught early.