Skin Cancer Causes

What Causes Skin Cancer? Although doctors cannot always pinpoint what causes skin cancer, they can often trace it to prolonged sun exposure before the patient was 18 years old. According to an October 2019 article published by the Cleveland Clinic, up to 80 percent of sun exposure occurs during childhood.

Sun Exposure and Skin Cancer: Know Your Risks

Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are non-melanoma skin cancers and the most common types to develop in response to cumulative sun exposure. People who experience at least one severe sunburn before age 18 are at higher risk of developing melanoma later in life.

Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer, and it can be deadly if it spreads to other organs. However, the recovery rate is one of the highest among all types of cancer if detected and treated early. Here are some other facts to keep in mind about the link between sun exposure and skin cancer:

  • Your risk of developing skin cancer due to prolonged sun exposure is just as high during the winter as it is during the summer. You need to take the same precautions to protect your skin, such as wearing sunscreen and covering as much skin as possible, when you know you will be outdoors for an extended time.
  • Certain antibiotics can increase how sensitive your skin is to sunlight. Be sure that you understand all potential side effects before starting any medication and adjust your sun exposure accordingly.

Regardless of the season, applying a sun block product to your skin with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30 helps to prevent sunburn. You also want to wear a hat, sunglasses, and protective clothing and stay in the shade as much as possible when the rays of the sun are strongest between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.

Age, Heredity, and Other Common Risk Factors for Skin Cancer

People over age 50 develop both non-melanoma and melanoma types of skin cancer more often than their younger peers, despite younger people spending more time in the sun. The reason for this is that most skin cancers grow slowly over time and can take decades to finally show symptoms. Skin cancer can also occur due to a genetic mutation passed from parent to child. The National Cancer Institute states that approximately 50 percent of people who have melanoma that has spread to other parts of the body have a defect in the BRAF oncogene. Other gene mutations that contribute to hereditary skin cancer include CDKN2A, C-KIT, NF1, and NRAS. People with genetic skin disorders like Gorlin syndrome or neurofibromatosis also face a higher risk of skin cancer. The following attributes or behaviors can also increase the risk of skin cancer:
  • 50 or more moles on the body
  • Fair skin and/or freckles
  • Weakened immune system
  • Precancerous skinconditions like actinic keratosis
  • Regular use of tanning beds
  • Fragile skin
If you recognize any of these risk factors, be sure to schedule a routine skin examination with Anne Arundel Dermatology. Early detection and treatment of skin cancer can make a life-saving difference.  

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