The skin is the largest organ of the body. Besides regulating the body temperature, it protects the body against heat, light, injury, and infection. However, continuous exposure to the sun can be dangerous for your skin and may result in skin cancer — abnormal growth of skin cells. Today, skin cancer has become the most common form of cancer. In fact, one in every five Americans develop skin cancer in their lifespan. Though, skin cancer can develop in any part of the body, it mostly occurs in skin that remains exposed to sunlight, such as the face, hands, and neck. Fortunately, it is preventable, as well as curable.
Types and Causes of Skin Cancer
Skin cancer begins in the cells of the skin. There are three main types of skin cancer:
- Basal cell carcinoma
- Squamous cell carcinoma
95% of all skin cancers are either basal cell or squamous cell cancers and are less serious. Also termed as non-melanoma skin cancers, these type of skin cancers are highly curable if treated early. However, melanoma skin cancer is the most serious type of skin cancer and results in majority of the skin cancer deaths. Left untreated, this type of cancer is difficult to control and can spread to other organs as well.
Most skin cancers occur when mutations occur in the DNA of a skin cell. The mutations cause the cells to grow abnormally and form masses of cancer cells. Though, the effect of ultraviolet rays of the sun is the major cause of skin cancer, UV rays from tanning beds is equally dangerous.
Who is at Risk for Skin Cancer?
Although, anyone can develop skin cancer, the risk is high for people with fair or freckled skin that easily burns in the sun. Apart from complexion, other factors include climatic conditions (hot sunny weather), family history, outdoor occupations, exposure to toxic substances, or a condition that weakens the immune system.
How to Prevent Skin Cancer?
Though, skin cancers are the most common type of cancer yet they are preventable. To protect yourself, it’s important to follow certain skin cancer prevention tips:
Avoid the sun in the middle of the day: The sun’s rays are strongest between 12 and 4 P.M. so it’s better to avoid going out during this hour to avoid sunburns and suntans that place you at a higher risk of developing skin cancer. Sun exposure accumulated over a period of time may also cause skin cancer.
Wear sunscreen all through the year: Though, sunscreens do not filter out harmful UV rays that can cause skin cancer, yet they play a significant role in protecting your skin from harmful radiations of the sun. It’s important to use a sunscreen with minimum SPF 30, even on cloudy days.
Cover your skin with protective clothing: Sunscreens may fail to provide complete protection from the sun. So, before you step out in the sun, make sure you cover your skin with clothes that cover your arms and legs. You can also use a broad-brimmed hat as well as sunglasses to protect your eyes.
Though, skin cancers are common, yet they can be prevented by paying attention to the triggers that allow tumors to develop. Also, following certain preventive strategies such as regular application of sunscreen, wearing protective clothing, and avoiding stepping out into the sun during peak hours can go a long way in keeping you safe and your skin cancer-free.