Skin cancer is the most prevalent of all cancers. It is estimated that more than one million Americans develop skin cancer every year. Sun avoidance is the best defense against skin cancer. Over exposure to sunlight (including tanning) is the main cause of skin cancer especially when it results in sunburn and blistering.
There are 3 major types of skin cancer;
- basal cell carcinoma (BCC)
- squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)
Our doctors provide regular comprehensive skin exams of all skin surfaces for malignant and premalignant lesions. Education on preventative measures is also discussed.
What Causes Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer is very common with over 1 million new cases diagnosed annually in the United States alone. Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are the most common types of skin cancer and are usually cased by long-term, cumulative exposure to the ultraviolet radiation that is part of sunlight. It is for this reason that the American Academy of Dermatology and the Skin Cancer Foundation recommend sun prevention measures. These organizations strongly recommend a sunscreen that protects against both UVA (Ultraviolet A) and UVB (Ultraviolet B) radiation, and has an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of at least 15. These should be applied daily to all skin that is exposed to the sun. This is especially important for people who have been treated for skin cancer.
Once a person is diagnosed with skin cancer, they have a 50% chance of having another one over the next 5 years. Self-skin exams should be performed at home, and a dermatologist should perform a skin check at least once each year, every year, for the rest of your life. Although it is important to get vitamin D, this can accomplished safely through a healthy diet and vitamin supplements rather than sun exposure.
There are other, less common causes of basal or squamous cell carcinomas. These include exposure to carcinogens such as certain petroleum-derived chemicals, or arsenic, which is occasionally present in well-water and was historically present in insecticides. Chronic immunosupression (decreased functioning of the immune system) can also lead to the development of skin cancer. This occurs most commonly when a person takes medications after accepting an organ transplant. Skin cancer sometimes develops in skin that was injured either by a thermal burn or a radiation treatment. A long-standing, non-healing wound may occasionally progress to skin cancer over time. There are genetic syndromes that lead to the early and frequent development of skin cancers, as well.
Where may I go to get More Information on Skin Cancer?
The following websites are excellent sources of information related to the causes, prognosis and treatment options for patients with skin cancer:
- The American Society for Dermatologic Surgery
- The American College of Mohs Surgery
- The American Academy of Dermatology
- The Skin Cancer Foundation
Skin Cancer Screening
We offer skin cancer screening services in our office.