Skin Cancer: Are You At Risk?
Every year, more than a million Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer. Most people think it’s caused by sun damage, whether from the real deal or tanning beds. While that’s true in many cases, there are other risk factors for all three forms of skin cancer. Even if you’re not fair skinned or a beach bunny, you might be at risk.
What’s Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)?
BCC is the most common skin cancer and it originates in the basal cells, found at the bottom of the epidermis (the skin’s top layer).
What’s Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)?
The second most common type of skin cancer is SCC. It can be found in the squamous cells (just above the basal cells). It’s similar to BCC because it occurs mostly in areas exposed to UV light like your face, scalp, neck, hands, arms and legs.
Melanoma is the least common but the most dangerous form of skin cancer. Melanoma originates in the melanocytes (found in the lower epidermis with basal cells).
Who’s at risk for skin cancer?
It turns out, we all have to be careful. The three types of skin cancer are all more prevalent in Caucasians—but they can affect people with darker skin tones as well. Most skin cancers are associated with mutations caused by UV light exposure from the sun or tanning beds, but genetics and environmental influences play a role too. Risk factors can include: skin conditions that lead to scarring or chronic inflammation (like discoid lupus or leprosy), burn scars, non-healing skin ulcerations, radiation therapy, thermal trauma, arsenic exposure, organ transplants, genetic skin conditions (like albinism) and immunosuppression.
What should I look for?
Keep an eye on your skin and perform regular mole checks with the ABCDE’s of melanoma detection in mind. Call your dermatologist right away if you notice:
A: Asymmetry—One half of the mole is not like the other half
B: Border—Irregular, scalloped or poorly defined
C: Color—Varying from one area of the mole to another (could be shades of tan, brown, black, sometimes even white, red or blue)
D: Diameter—Larger than a pencil eraser
E: Evolution—Changes in a mole’s size, shape or color
You should also notify your dermatologist if you notice a mole that’s itchy, a lesion that bleeds and doesn’t seem to heal, or brown spots on your hands, feet or under your nails.
Just by reading this article, you’re doing your part to stay informed. Keep that up, take the time to examine your skin, and set up regular appointments with your dermatologist—these are the kinds of steps that can help you maintain a lifetime of healthy, beautiful skin.