Each day, 9,500 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with some form of skin cancer. In fact, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. And at this very moment, 1 million of us are living with melanoma, the most dangerous — and the deadliest — type of skin cancer.
Learn the most common forms of skin cancer, who is most at risk for developing skin cancer, and how to prevent skin cancer.
What is Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is the abnormal growth of skin cells. It can affect any part of the body, although the skin most often exposed to the sun is more likely to develop cancer. Moreover, most cases of skin cancer result from overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays or even tanning beds and sunlamps. In the short term, overexposure to UV rays will cause a sunburn. But over time, this overexposure will cause premature aging of the skin and, in some instances, skin cancer.
Skin cancer can take many forms, including:
- Basal cell carcinoma
- Squamous cell carcinoma
- Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma
- Dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans (DFSP)
- Merkel cell carcinoma
- Sebaceous carcinoma
What are the Most Common Forms of Skin Cancer?
The vast majority of cases fall under three common forms:
Basal cell carcinoma. BCC is the most common type of cancer in the world. BCC begins in the basal cells of the outer layer of the skin. BCC may look like a small bump or sore with a waxy appearance or a flat scar-like lesion. Although BCC is most common in people with fair skin, everyone can get this skin cancer regardless of skin color. While not life-threatening, it is crucial to treat BCC early. If given time to grow, BCC can cause grave injury to nerves, blood vessels, and even reach into bones.
Squamous cell carcinoma. SCC is also found in the outer layer of skin. It often looks like a red nodule or a flat lesion with a scaly surface. Like BCC, this cancer is usually not life-threatening. It tends to grow slowly, but it can also grow quite deep. As a result, it can injure nerves, blood vessels, and anything else in its path. As its cancer cells pile up, a large tumor can form.
Melanoma. While melanoma accounts for only 1% of skin cancer diagnoses, it causes the majority of skin cancer deaths. If you are concerned with how to prevent melanoma, avoiding sun exposure is key. Early detection and treatment of melanoma are vital as the 5-year survival rate for people whose melanoma is treated before it spreads to the lymph nodes is 99%. The ABCDES of Melanoma are as follows:
- A is for Asymmetry – One half of the spot is unlike the other half
- B is for Border – The spot has an irregular, scalloped, or poorly defined border.
- C is for Color – The spot has varying colors from one area to the next, such as shades of tan, brown or black, or areas of white, red, or blue.
- D is for Diameter – While melanomas are usually greater than 6 millimeters, or about the size of a pencil eraser, when diagnosed, they can be smaller.
- E is for Evolving – The spot looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape, or color.
How Can You Prevent Skin Cancer?
The best way of preventing Melanoma, BCC, and SCC, is to avoid situations that put you at risk. The following are 10 ways to prevent skin cancer:
- Limit exposure to the sun. You can guard against skin cancer by staying out of direct sunlight from mid-morning (about 10 a.m.) until late afternoon (4 p.m.).
- Don’t sunbathe.
- Don’t use tanning beds or sun lamps.
- If you find you must be out in the sun, wear a wide-brimmed hat that shields the sun from your face, neck, and ears.
- Wear UV-protected sunglasses.
- When in the sun, wear light-weight long-sleeved shirts and long pants in darker shades of tightly woven fibers. Look for clothing labeled with a UV protection factor (UPV).
- Use a lip balm with an SPF of 15 or higher.
- Get in the habit of using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to protect you from both UVA and UVB radiation. Be sure to reapply often, especially if you have been swimming.
- See a health professional for a head-to-toe skin examination regularly.
- Every month, do a self-examination of your skin. Take note of any new or unusual bumps, moles, lesions, or rashes and bring them to the attention of a healthcare provider.
Who is Most at Risk for Cancer?
Anyone can get skin cancer, making it all the more vital that everyone take measures to prevent it or catch it early enough to treat it. However, some individuals are at a higher risk. Take extra precautions if any of these risk factors apply to you:
- A history of sun exposure
- A family history of skin cancer or other cancers
- Fair skin type that burns, freckles, and reddens easily
- Blue or green eyes
- Blonde or red hair
- Skin with a lot of moles
- Being 50 or older
- Weakened or suppressed immune system
- Previous skin cancer
- Taking medications that cause sun sensitivity
- Previous radiation therapy treatments
- Carrying the human papillomavirus (HPV)
Promoting Skin Cancer Prevention and Early Detection
At Eden Health, we believe that patient education on how to prevent skin cancer is key to promoting the health of our members. As a direct-to-employer medical provider, we offer a new, collaborative approach to employee health that includes our integrated 360 care model, which provides each employee with their own team of medical and mental health providers, physical therapists, and insurance experts. Our dedicated, interdisciplinary Care Teams work together to understand each patient and help them achieve their health goals, including skin cancer prevention.
From employee health screenings to corporate wellness programs, the health of your workforce is at the center of all we do. We even provide workplace popups, so every employee has easy access to the care they need.
Contact us or request a demo today for more information on our healthcare solutions for employers and to discover how our collaborative approach to healthcare can help your organization.
This blog is intended to be informational in nature. The information and other content provided in this blog, or in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment.
If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your Care Team or other healthcare provider. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog or in any linked materials.