Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, one out of every five Americans will eventually develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Fortunately, skin cancer is also one of the most preventable types. Let’s discuss the different types of skin cancer, the risk factors for skin cancer, and the steps you can take to prevent it.
What Causes Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer is caused by the abnormal growth of skin cells damaged by UV radiation from the sun. This damage can occur from prolonged exposure to the sun and from tanning beds or sunlamps. Other factors that increase the risk of developing skin cancer include having fair skin, a history of skin cancer, a family history of skin cancer, and exposure to certain chemicals.
Types of Skin Cancer
There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer. It usually affects skin areas frequently exposed to the sun, such as the face, neck, and scalp. Squamous cell carcinoma also typically develops in areas of the skin that receive the most sun exposure, but it can also occur on the lips, inside the mouth, and in the genital area. Melanomas are the third most common type of skin cancer and can develop anywhere on the body, even in areas not exposed to the sun.
Risk Factors for Skin Cancer
The main risk factor for developing skin cancer is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds. Other risk factors include having fair skin, a history of sunburns, a family history of skin cancer, and a weakened immune system.
People who work outside or spend a lot of time outdoors are also at higher risk for developing skin cancer. It’s important to note that skin cancer can develop at any age, but it’s more common in people over 50.
Preventing Skin Cancer
The good news is that skin cancer is highly preventable. Let’s take a look at a few tips on how you can protect yourself and prevent skin cancer.
Wear Protective Clothing
One of the best ways to prevent skin cancer is to cover up. Wear a hat that covers your face, neck, and ears and clothing that covers your arms and legs. You can also look for clothing with a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) rating of 50 or more.
Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Apply sunscreen to all exposed skin, including your ears, lips, and feet. Reapply every two hours or more often if you are swimming or sweating.
Stay out of the sun during peak hours, usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you must be outside during these hours, seek shade under a tree or umbrella, cover up your skin, or apply sunscreen regularly.
Avoid Tanning Beds
Tanning beds emit UV radiation, increasing your risk of developing skin cancer including melanoma. If you want a tan, consider using a self-tanning lotion instead.
The Importance of Regular Skin Checks
Even with preventative measures in place, it is still important to have regular skin checks. Your dermatologist can perform a skin examination and check for any signs of skin cancer. It is recommended to have a skin check at least once a year or more frequently if you have a history of skin cancer or have any concerning symptoms.
Schedule A Consultation
Remember, prevention is key when it comes to skin cancer. By following these tips, you can take action to lower your risk of developing skin cancer. If you’re looking for a regular skin check or have some concerns you’re looking to discuss, scheduling a consultation with Baird MD is a great next step. Dr. Baird can look at your skin and discuss any questions or concerns you may have.
To schedule a consultation today, please call our Farmington, MI at (248) 671-6450 or use our online scheduling form to request an appointment.