The mere idea of developing skin cancer can be very scary to many of us. However, we can fight that fear with knowledge. Understanding this disease is the first step towards overcoming it, or better yet, preventing it. Being well aware of the risk factors for skin cancer is the first step we should take in preventing it. So let’s dive in and take a look at the most common risk factors of skin cancer.
Every living organism has a particular compound in its system known as melanin. Melanin is the pigment in our bodies that is responsible for the color of our skin, hair, and eyes. Individuals with less amounts of melanin have lighter, paler skin and red hair. While those with more melanin have darker skin and darker hair. Melanin acts as a natural sunblock, protecting the skin from the sun’s harmful rays. This means, unfortunately, fair-skinned individuals have little to no natural protection from the sun, allowing their skin cells to be exposed to the radiation emitted from the sun. This radiation is what mutates the DNA and causes skin cancer.
As the sun shines down on us, it brings with it three types of ultraviolet rays; ultraviolet A (UVA), ultraviolet B (UVB), and ultraviolet C (UVC). UVC radiation is completely absorbed by the earth’s ozone layer and therefore doesn’t reach us. UVB also gets trapped in the ozone layer, with a small portion reaching the ground. UVA radiation, however, shines down on us constantly and penetrates deep into our skin. When we continually absorb UVA rays with no protection, it begins to mutate our DNA, thus causing skin cancer. And these rays don’t come just from the sun. Tanning beds may be an artificial source of UV radiation, but the damage is as real as it gets. Excessive (and unprotected) exposure to UVA and UVB radiation undoubtedly and significantly increases your chances of developing skin cancer.
Skin cancer, specifically melanoma, often appears as a mole. This is what dermatologists look for when screening you for skin cancer. Any changes to existing moles or growths of new unusual ones are typically a surefire sign that an individual has skin cancer. Having multiple moles puts you at a higher risk of developing cancer, as the moles are more likely to become cancerous.
While skin cancer may most commonly be caused by overexposure to UV rays, family history may also play a role. Individuals whose family has a history of developing skin cancer may be more likely to develop skin cancer at some point in their lives. Personal history is also a factor. Those who have had skin cancer in the past are at high risk of it reoccuring.
Whether you have an autoimmune disorder or are on medications that suppress your immune system, you are at a greater risk of developing skin cancer, as your body is less likely to fight it successfully.
There are just a few common risk factors for developing skin cancer. To fully understand your personal risk factors, please speak with a licensed dermatologist.
If you are in the Cincinnati, Ohio area, our experts at The Dermatology Group can go over your personal risk factor and give you advice, resources and treatment options if necessary. Give us a call today!