Statistics from The Skin Cancer Foundation cite that two people die of skin cancer in the U.S. every hour. Indeed, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer globally and roughly one in five Americans will develop it. It’s important to educate yourself and take preventative measures against sunburn and the resulting development of this cancer. While skin cancer can show up anywhere, here’s where it most commonly appears on the body.
Excess sun exposure is the primary cause of skin cancer. The sun’s UVA and UVB rays can burn and age our skin, as well as cause skin cancers to develop over time. Most sun damage happens before the age of 18, and it only takes one severe sunburn to develop skin cancer. But the fact is that skin cancer can actually show up even in places that are rarely or never exposed to the sun.
However, skin cancer is most often found in areas of the body frequently exposed to the sun, like the face. The nose, cheeks, and forehead are common sites of cancerous growths. The scalp, ears, shoulders, arms, and hands are often affected too. And in other cases, especially for people who live in warmer climates and wear less clothing, skin cancer can appear on the back, legs, and torso.
Often, sun exposure that ends up resulting in skin cancer decades later actually happens during childhood. This is one reason it’s so crucial to protect babies and kids from the sun’s UV rays by slathering sunscreen on them, keeping them in the shade when possible, and covering them in sun shirts, hats, or other protective clothing.
When skin cells reproduce abnormally as a result of UV light exposure, skin cancer can develop. Abnormal skin cells begin to grow and divide. This can cause a cancerous growth on the skin. Skin cancer can absolutely be treated, but early detection is critical. If not caught early, skin cancer often spreads to other areas of the body, usually through the lymph system, and can be deadly.
Three types of skin cancer exist, with varying levels of severity, though they all must be removed before spreading elsewhere. Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer, affecting around one million Americans per year. BCC develops in the top layer of skin, the epidermis. Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) also develops in the epidermis but affects different types of cells. Both BCC and SCC are generally caused by UVA rays, while UVB rays cause melanoma, which is the deadliest type of skin cancer.
It’s a good practice to get into the habit of checking your own skin for changes. New moles or moles that change shape, border, color, or size can be signs of skin cancer. Also, adults should receive an annual skin cancer screening, especially those with a personal or family history of skin cancer.
Always wear an SPF 50 or higher sunscreen when spending time outdoors, and an SPF 15 or higher inside. Stay in the shade when possible, and never use artificial light sources like tanning beds or booths.
If you’re in the Bellevue, Washington area and want to get a skin cancer screening, contact North Pacific Dermatology today for an appointment.