Sun Series Part Four: All About Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is on the rise. While some of this is due to better detection and diagnosis, the damage to the ozone layer has resulted in increased levels of UVA penetrating the atmosphere. UVA is a type of ultraviolet light that many sunscreens don’t block very well. It does not cause immediate visible damage, but it’s a key factor that leads to many types of skin cancer.
Malignant melanoma, a dangerous and aggressive type of skin cancer, is directly linked to exposure to ultraviolet light. Scientists have proven that both outdoor tanning and tanning beds are especially likely to lead to malignant melanoma. MM spreads quickly and aggressively. If it’s not caught early, it can be fatal — nearly 80% of deaths due to skin cancer in 2009 were caused by MM. Malignant melanoma takes the form of a brown, black or red spot. It’s usually irregular and asymmetrical and its size and shape changes over time.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma is another form of skin cancer that’s linked to sun damage. While it’s not as dangerous as malignant melanoma, BCC tumors can ulcerate, bleed and disfigure the surrounding skin. BCC almost always appears in an area of the body that receives regular sunlight. While BCC is especially prevalent in people with fair skin, the chance of being diagnosed with BCC is directly related to sun exposure. This makes it important for people of all races to protect their skin from sunlight. BCC and other types of skin cancer usually start as pink, red or white bumps. The affected areas often appear scaly or rough.
Skin cancer is most effectively treated when it is caught early and surgically removed. While this surgery can leave a scar, doctors have made improvements at minimizing and repairing scarring over time. Other treatment options vary based on the type and location of cancer, but they include freezing off the cancerous area, laser surgery, light therapy, and various chemical treatments.
Prevention Is The Best Medicine
By protecting your skin from sunlight, you can minimize your risk of getting skin cancer of any type. Avoid tanning beds and outdoor tanning, use appropriate sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB, and stay in the shade when possible. By minimizing your exposure to UV light, you will keep your skin younger and healthier looking and keep your risk of skin cancer low.
Written by Leah LaVanway