Skin is our largest organ. It protects us against heat, light, injury and infection. Skin helps us control our body temperature, stores water, fat and vitamin D. Skin cancer starts in the top layer of the skin called the epidermis. There are three main types of cells in the epidermis: basal cells, squamous cells and melanocytes. The type of skin cells affected determine your treatment options.
Skin cancer is the most common malignancy in the US affecting more than 3 million people every year. It affects people of all skin colors. More than 9000 people die every year from Melanoma.
What is skin cancer?
Skin cancer is the abnormal growth of skin cells on skin exposed to the sun caused by a genetic mutation induced by UV light from the sun. However, melanoma is caused by a combination of factors including sun damage, sunburn history and a genetic predisposition.
What areas of the body develop skin cancer?
Skin cancer commonly develops on the scalp, face, lips, ears, chest, arms, hands and legs. However, some types of skin cancer can develop in areas that are rarely exposed to the sun including the soles of the feet and palms of the hands, under your finger and toe nails, and on your genitals.
What causes skin cancer?
Most skin cancers are caused at least in part by overexposure to Ultraviolet radiation from the sun or indoor tanning beds. Sunburn, at any age, increases skin cancer risk and repeated sunburns during childhood are a known risk factor for malignant melanoma.
Other risk factors that include:
- Skin color. Light skin color
- Hair color. Blonds and redheads
- Eye color: Blue and green eyes
- Sensitive Skin. Skin that burns easily and doesn’t tan, reddens easily and becomes painful in the sun
- A history of melanoma or non-melanoma skin cancer increases the risk of melanoma
- Skin cancer risk increases with age.
- Atypical moles. An atypical mole looks like melanoma but is benign. But people with ten or more atypical moles are at significant risk of developing melanoma. People with a lot of atypical moles and a family history of melanoma have a high risk of developing melanoma.
- Men are twice as likely to get BCC and 3x more likely to get SCC.
- A family history of skin cancer.
- A history of sunburns. Sunburn is common among adults in the US. Young, non-Hispanic white people are at the greatest risk. Sunless tanning products that do not contain sun screen are associated with sunburn.
- 50 or more moles, and large moles increase the risk of developing melanoma
- HPV may increase the risk of genital skin cancers.
What can you do to reduce your risk for skin cancer?
Skin cancer is directly related to your lifestyle. The most important personal health action you can take is to wear sun screen and protective clothing and avoid the sun between 10 and 4. Secondly, check your skin for suspicious looking changes. See your dermatologist once a year for a complete skin inspection.
While skin cancer diagnosis is complicated, is vital to assure you receive a correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan. Dr. Sedrak is a board-certified, fellowship trained dermatologist and MOHs surgeon. At the Texas Skin Cancer Center with offices in Houston, Kingwood and Sugarland, Texas you will always receive private, respectful and compassionate care in a state-of-the-art facility. Contact Texas Skin Cancer Center to schedule a consultation today. Don’t wait. Early diagnosis and treatment can save you from disfigurement and suffering.