Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. Every year, 5.4 million new cases of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, which are the two most common types, are diagnosed. Melanoma, the most lethal form, is expected to account for around 76,380 new cases of skin cancer this year.
What Causes Skin Cancer?
The three most common skin cancers – basal cell, squamous cell and melanoma – are all generally caused by exposure to the sun. All three develop in the epidermis, which is the outermost layer of the skin.
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) are both caused by sun damage that has accumulated over many years. They, therefore, tend to develop in places that are routinely exposed to the sun, such as the face or hands.
Occasionally, a BCC or SCC will develop in a place that isn’t usually exposed to the sun. Melanoma, on the other hand, is more likely to be caused by a single severe, blistering sunburn rather than years of tanning.
Most Common Risk Factors
Many things can increase a person’s chance of developing this disease. Chief among them is the amount of time spent in the sun without protection, like sunscreen or long sleeves. Using tanning booths also increases the risk of developing skin cancer.
People with fair skin have less melanin, which is a pigment that provides protection against the sun’s ultraviolet rays, than do people with dark skin. They are therefore more likely to develop skin cancer than are people with dark skin.
Skin Conditions Associated with Skin Cancer
Previous bouts with skin cancer increase the chances of getting it again. A person who has had BCC or SCC is ten times more likely to develop another non-melanoma skin cancer than is someone who has never had it.
Actinic keratosis, or solar keratosis, is a skin condition characterized by small red patches of rough skin. It is caused by too much exposure to the sun, and it is a warning that one’s skin has already been damaged.
Having a large number of moles or having abnormal moles called dysplastic nevi is also a risk factor. Dysplastic nevi are bigger-than-normal moles and have irregular borders. They are also more likely to become cancerous.
Other Risk Factors
Other risk factors for developing this disease include the following:
• Age is a risk factor for both BCC and SCC, for these cancers develop very slowly and are the result of years of accumulated sun damage.
• Heredity is also a risk factor. A susceptibility to the disease runs in some families.
• A weakened immune system, no matter what the reason, is a risk factor. That’s true for someone who has AIDS and for someone taking immunosuppressant drugs while undergoing an organ transplant.
• Exposure to certain substances, like arsenic, coal tar, paraffin and various oils, can increase the chances of developing skin cancer.
Consult the Medical Professionals
At The John Bull Center for Cosmetic Surgery and Laser Medispa, Dr. Bull specializes in a variety of skin cancer procedures, from diagnosis and removal to reconstructive surgery. During a consultation at our office in Naperville, we can come up with a plan of treatment for you that will make your skin cancer a thing of the past. Contact us today to schedule your appointment.