May Is Skin Cancer Awareness Month: Do You Know Your Risks?

Many people love spending time out in the sun, enjoying nature, and embracing life to the fullest. Yet, some are putting themselves at risk if they don’t know the dangers of skin cancer. Skin cancer, one of the most common forms of cancer, is the abnormal growth of skin cells, which typically occurs due to sun over-exposure. With May being Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness Month, it’s the perfect time to understand your risks better.

What Causes Skin Cancer?

To better understand the causes of skin cancer, consider the different types:

Basal Cell Carcinoma: This type of cancer occurs, at the start, in the basal cells, the location in the skin that produces new cells as the older ones die. This type of skin cancer often causes a transparent bump to form on the skin, and it typically happens in areas exposed to the sun, such as the neck and head. Long-term exposure to UV rays from the sun tends to be the leading cause of basal cell carcinoma.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma: This type of skin cancer also develops on areas of the body exposed to the sun, such as the ears, hands, and face. This type of skin cancer develops as a firm, red nodule. It may also have flat lesions with a crusted-like surface.

Melanoma: This type of skin cancer is the most severe form of skin cancer due to its tendency to spread. It can occur anywhere on the body, including normal skin and existing moles. The most common locations for melanoma are on the backs of men and on the legs and backs of women. It is more related to a history of sunburns as opposed to chronic sun exposure. It does not always have a direct link to sun exposure. This type of cancer tends to develop as a large, brownish spot with darker areas. It may be a mole that changes in size, color, or texture. In some situations, it can also form as a small lesion with an irregular border.

Who Can Skin Cancer Affect?

Some people may be more likely to develop skin cancer than others. However, it is important to know that it can happen to anyone.

One tool doctors use is the Fitzpatrick Scale. On a scale from 1 to 6, patients with Type 1 skin have the least natural pigment, and patients with Type 6 skin have the most. This diagnostic tool can help to determine the overall risk of skin cancer development.

In addition to this, other factors play a role in your risks, such as:

  • Having a history of sunburns
  • Spending a lot of time in the sun (even if you have darker skin tones)
  • Having numerous moles on your skin
  • Having a family history of skin cancer 
  • Having a previous diagnosis of skin cancer
  • Being exposed to radiation
  • Having a weakened immune system for any reason

Now Is the Time to Get a Closer Look

Skin cancer awareness is critical not just during the month of May but throughout the year. It can impact your health at any time. It is vital to schedule an appointment for a complete skin check. Don’t forget to wear your sunscreen year-round, as well. Request an appointment today for guidance and answers to your skincare questions.

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