Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world; however it is also one of the most curable. Over two-thirds of the cases of skin cancer are caused by exposure to ultraviolet rays, most commonly from sunlight and tanning beds. There are two types of skin cancer, melanoma and non-melanoma. Melanoma is a much deadlier type of cancer which often spreads to organs and other body systems causing destructive effects that can often be fatal. Non-melanoma types of skin cancer are usually localized, and while they do not spread to organs, they can still cause serious scarring and disfigurement.
Skin cancer risk can be higher in those individuals with a family history of skin cancer, but the majority of risk factors come from exposure to sunlight and tanning beds and related prevention tactics when exposed to ultraviolet rays. To reduce your risk of skin cancer, one should attempt to avoid sun exposure when at all possible, especially the peak hours following noon in the United States. A sunscreen with a protection factor of at least 15 should be used and reapplied frequently. Clothing can block some ultraviolet rays and sunglasses and wide hats will provide some protection against strong rays on sensitive areas such as the eyes, neck, ears, and face. Use of tanning lamps, beds, or lights has been linked to an increased risk of skin cancer, especially melanoma types, so avoid these services and products to reduce your risk of skin cancer.
Fair skinned individuals are at a higher risk of skin cancer, however any skin tone can get cancer and it can arise in any area on the body. Physician screening is ideal, when this is not possible it is recommended that individuals perform self-checks to identify any potential skin related issues. Moles and birthmarks are common areas for skin cancer to arise. Individuals are often advised to check these areas for symmetry and coloration. Moles should be small and symmetrical and evenly colored. Moles that are unevenly colored or bleed should be checked by a doctor. Any change in a mole or birthmark over a short period of time is a cause for concern.
Most skin cancers are curable with treatment, which may include surgery or chemotherapy. The earlier a cancer can be identified, the greater the likelihood of a positive outcome. When cancer is in question, it is better safe than sorry.