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Approximately 3.5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year in the U.S., making it the most common type of cancer. There are several types of skin cancer, including Actinic Keratosis, Basal Cell Carcinoma, Dysplastic Nevi, Melanoma, and Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Learn more about these specific types of skin cancer here.
Protecting your skin is vital. It is the largest organ of the body and has important functions such as protecting internal organs, keeping bacteria out, preventing fluid loss, moderating body temperature, protecting the body from UV rays, and aiding in vitamin D protection. Since skin is so important, take a moment to learn more about keeping your skin safe and healthy from cancer.
What Are The Risk Factors For Skin Cancer?
Time spent in the sun is important to help your body produce vitamin D, but too much time can be damaging to your skin. Your risk for developing skin cancer can increase with any of these factors:
- Having pale skin
- Using tanning beds or spending too much time in the sun without skin protection
- Having multiple moles, or moles that are unusual
- A family history of skin cancer
- A weakened immune system
- Having had severe sunburns in the past
- Having had skin cancer in the past
While a family history of skin cancer or having pale skin are not within your control, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk for developing skin cancer.
Skin Cancer Prevention
The sun is most intense during 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so seeking out shade during these hours can help minimize your exposure. Covering your skin is another great way to protect against the sun. Clothing, sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses can all help protect you. Wearing loose-fitting clothing that still covers your skin is an easy way to stay covered without getting too warm. Sunscreen should be applied before you go outside, and reapplied every few hours, especially after you get out of the water when swimming. If you are interested in chemical-free sunscreens, check out the Environmental Working Group’s database.
Know The Warning Signs And Seek Early Treatment
Unfortunately, skin cancer can still occur even if you take precautions against it. Knowing the signs and symptoms and addressing them with a doctor right away can help detect cancer early. Skin cancer can be treated more easily if it is caught at an early stage. Late-stage skin cancers can be dangerous and difficult to treat, even causing death. The symptoms may vary based on the type of skin cancer, but in general, look out for these signs:
- Changes on your skin, such as a mole changing color, size or shape. Look out for new moles or skin growths as well, especially in adults
- A mole’s pigment spreading beyond its border
- Scaly or rough patches on the skin, or areas that bleed or ooze
- Sores that don’t heal
- Changes in skin sensation, such as itchiness, pain or tenderness.