According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, more than two people die of skin cancer in the U.S. every hour. In fact, skin cancer is the most common cancer worldwide. If you’re worried about your risks due to sun exposure, let’s talk about skin cancer and where it most commonly appears.
The truth is, skin cancer can show up anywhere on the body, including places that are rarely or never exposed to the sun. That said, since skin cancer most often manifests as a result of excess ultraviolet (UV) light exposure, it’s commonly found in areas frequently exposed to the sun. The most common areas for skin cancer to appear are on the nose, cheeks, scalp, forehead, ears, shoulders, arms, and hands. Skin cancer can also be found on the back, legs, and torso, especially for those who live in warmer climates and wear fewer protective layers.
It takes just one blistering sunburn over the course of a lifetime to develop skin cancer, even decades later. This is one reason why it’s so important to protect babies and kids from the sun’s harmful UV rays by keeping them in the shade when possible, applying sunscreen frequently, and covering them in protective clothing.
Skin cancer develops when skin cells reproduce abnormally as a result of UV light exposure. These abnormal cells grow and divide, often causing a growth on the skin and potentially spreading to other areas or systems in the body.
There are three types of skin cancer. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common, affecting roughly one million Americans per year and occurring in the topmost layer of skin known as the epidermis. Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) affects different types of cells but is also found in the epidermis. Melanoma is the most fatal type of skin cancer.
Most commonly, people associate skin cancer with problematic moles -- medically termed nevi. Nevi are small bumps that grow on the skin when melanocytes (skin cells) cluster together. Most moles are harmless, but it’s important to know what to look for as far as warning signs. Developing new moles or changes to existing moles can both be indicators of skin cancer. Look for changes in the size, shape, color, or border of your moles and visit a dermatologist if anything looks suspicious.
Nevi aren’t the only signs of skin cancer. Certain skin cancers can appear as a shiny, translucent growth, a pink, elevated bump, or a scaly, crusted patch of skin with a red base.
First, keep in mind that early detection is critical in treating skin cancer, so monitor your own skin regularly and report any concerns to a dermatologist. Receiving an annual skin cancer screening is very important, especially for those ages 25 and older.
Wear an SPF 15 to 30 sunscreen daily, even if you’re indoors. Often, you can find moisturizers that contain this protection. If you’re outdoors, wear an SPF 50 or greater, avoid the peak hours of midday sunlight, and stay in the shade when possible. Sun shirts are a great option for an additional protective layer on your arms, and a wide-brimmed hat can help protect your face and neck. Of course, exposure to tanning beds and booths will drastically increase your risk of skin cancer, so it’s recommended to avoid them.
If you’re in the Cincinnati, Ohio area and want to get a skin cancer screening, contact The Dermatology Group today for an appointment.