The sun causes up to 90% of all skin cancers. The harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun are the culprits. The exposure is a cumulative effect over your lifetime out in the sun.
Fortunately, most skin cancers are visible and can be detected and successfully treated before they spread to other parts of your body. In fact, many lesions can be treated at a precancerous stage.
Actinic Keratosis (AK) is the most common type of precancerous skin lesion. AK is evidence that sun damage has occurred and that the individual is at greater risk of developing skin cancer. Since sun damage is a cumulative effect over your lifetime, many elderly people have such lesions. However, anyone can develop these precancerous growths. There are a number of treatments available if you discover one of more of these lesions. Discuss the proper approach with your doctor.
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) and Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) are the most common forms of skin cancers. Both are commonly caused by prolonged exposure to the sun. BCC and SCC are easily treated when they are detected at an early stage. However, the larger the tumor grows, the more dangerous it becomes and the more extensive the treatment must be.
Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. It too is most often caused by frequent and intense exposure to the sun. People with a family history of this disease are at an increased risk. In its earliest stages, melanoma is treatable. Left untreated, it will spread to vital organs, and can become life threatening.
Preventing Skin Cancer
Most AK’s and skin cancers are readily treated if discovered early. However, the best defense is to develop sun-safety habits:
- Avoid unnecessary sun exposure, especially during the peak hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Seek the shade.
- Cover up with clothing and a broad brimmed hat. Use UV blocking sunglasses.
- Wear a broad spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher.
- Avoid tanning parlors and artificial tanning devices.
- Examine your skin from head to toe every month.
- Have a professional skin examination each year.