What Is Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer is the abnormal growth of a mass of cells, which most often develops on the skin exposed to the sun. Skin cancer types include basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Basal cell carcinoma also known as basal cell cancer is the most common type of cancer, which occurs in both older and younger people. Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are highly curable.
Melanoma is much less common than basal and squamous cell carcinoma and the most dangerous type of skin cancer as it can spread to other parts of the body at a very early stage and can be fatal. Melanoma begins in the melanocytes – the cells that make the brown skin pigment known as melanin, which gives the skin its color. The less common types of skin cancer include Kaposi sarcoma, Merkel cell carcinoma, and sebaceous gland carcinoma.
What Are The Causes Of Skin Cancer?
The leading reason for high incidence of skin cancer is exposure to harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Exposure to ultraviolet radiation causes sunburn, premature aging of the skin and damage to the skin cells, which leads to skin cancer. DNA damage increases the chances of developing skin cancer. The DNA damage causes the cells to grow out of control and form a mass of cancer cells.
Skin cancer can also occur in areas that are not exposed to the sun. Lights used in tanning beds emit UV rays that can increase the risk of skin cancer. The chances of developing melanoma triple even while using tanning beds occasionally.
A person’s risk of developing skin cancer depends on factors such as age, genetics, weakened immune system, fair complexion, moles and exposure to some potentially avoidable lifestyle factors (sun exposure and tanning beds). Examining the skin for some dubious changes such as new skin growth, changes in existing moles and birthmarks can help detect skin cancer at the earliest.
Facts On Skin Cancer
- Globally, two to three million non-melanoma skin cancers and 1,32,000 melanoma skin cancers occur each year. According to statistics, one in every three cancers diagnosed is a skin cancer.
- Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. It occurs in more than a million Americans each year. One in every five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, according to Skin Cancer Foundation Statistics.
- Skin cancer in India is on the rise due to rapid urbanization, which results in increased pollution due to the vehicles, smoke emitted from industries.
- More than 90% of all skin cancers develop on the body parts that get exposed to the sun most of the time.
- Excessive exposure to the sun damages the skin cells during childhood. Research studies suggest that exposure to UV radiation in adulthood triggers these damaged cells to turn cancerous.
- Skin cancer can affect people of different skin tones, including those with a darker complexion. In African American skin, melanin produced by melanocytes provides protection against the effects of sun. But, skin cancer is more prevalent in Caucasians due to their light skin color and low amounts of melanin.
- The risk of skin cancer increases with five or more sunburns in a lifetime, and one bad sunburn can double the likelihood of melanoma.
- Melanoma will account for more than 73,000 cases of skin cancer in 2015. Men develop melanoma on the shoulders and hips. Women develop melanoma on the arms and legs.
- In people with darker skin tones, melanoma develops in areas that are not frequently exposed, such as palms and soles.
- On an average, one American dies from melanoma every hour. According to statistics, 9,940 deaths will be melanoma - 6,640 men and 3,300 women.
- About 25% of malignant melanoma are diagnosed in people aged 75 and over. Young women up to the age of 34 are more likely to be diagnosed with malignant melanoma.
- Tanning beds pose 1.5 times more risk for developing basal cell carcinoma and 2.5 times more risk for squamous cell carcinoma.
- Basal cell carcinoma commonly develops on the head, neck and upper body. Squamous cell carcinoma develops on the nose, ears, forehead, lower lip, and hands.
- The risk of skin cancer can be reduced by limiting the exposure to ultraviolet radiation.
- Examination and screening of skin cancer should be included as part of any health check-up for men and women beginning at age 20.