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How Does Skin Cancer Occur

You Can Find Skin Cancer On Your Body

What Is Cancer and How Does it Occur?

The best way to find skin cancer is to examine yourself. When checking, you want to look at the spots on your skin. And you want to check everywhere from your scalp to the spaces between your toes and the bottoms of your feet.

If possible, having a partner can be helpful. Your partner can examine hard-to-see areas like your scalp and back.

Getting in the habit of checking your skin will help you notice changes. Checking monthly can be beneficial. If you have had skin cancer, your dermatologist can tell you how often you should check your skin.

People of all ages get skin cancer

Checking your skin can help you find skin cancer early when its highly treatable.

Different Types Of Cancer Start In The Skin

Skin cancer may form in basal cells or squamous cells. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are the most common types of skin cancer. They are also called nonmelanoma skin cancer. Actinic keratosis is a skin condition that sometimes becomes squamous cell carcinoma.

Melanoma is less common than basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma. It is more likely to invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body.

This summary is about basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma of the skin, and actinic keratosis. See the following PDQ summaries for information on melanoma and other kinds of cancer that affect the skin:

What Is Skin Cancer

Primarily, skin cancer develops in areas of the skin exposed to the sun. Including the scalp, face, lips, ears, neck, chest, arms and hands, and on the legs in women.

But, it can also form on areas that rarely see the light of day. For example, your palms, beneath your fingernails or toenails, and your genital area.

In general, there are three major types of skin cancer namely

  • basal cell carcinoma,
  • others!
Basal Cell Carcinoma

Above all, Basal Cell Carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that begins in the basal cells. Whereby, Basal Cells are a type of cells within the skin that produces new skin cells as old ones die off.

And often, basal cell carcinoma appears as a slightly transparent bump on the skin, though it can take other forms. It occurs most often on areas of the skin that are exposed to the sun. Such as your head and neck.

Most basal cell carcinomas are thought to be caused by long-term exposure to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight. Avoiding the sun and using sunscreen may help protect against basal cell carcinoma.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Notably, Squamous Cell Carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer. Its usually found on areas of the body damaged by UV rays from the sun or tanning beds.

In general, sun-exposed skin includes the head, neck, chest, upper back, ears, lips, arms, legs, and hands.


Uniquely, Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, develops in the cells that produce melanin the pigment that gives your skin its color.

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Staying In The Sun Safely

In order to maintain adequate levels of Vitamin D, it is recommended to stay in the sun 15-30 minutes per day without sunscreen. Start for a few minutes and work up to 30. If your staying out in the sun for longer wearing a hat and light clothes would be a good idea to protect the skin from burning. If you are planning to be in the hot sun for longer than 30 minutes, it is a good to have some form a sun protection. If using a sunscreen make sure to use a non-toxic one. I recommend reading the ingredients to see the bottle lists any ones mentioned above.

The EWGs first choice for sun protection is Zinc Oxide. It provides full spectrum protection of UVA and UVB rays. Sunscreens like Earthie Mamas Sunscreen , are the best choice in sunscreens. There are other reasons why you might want to switch over to a mineral based sunscreen, You can read more about that HERE.

Eating a healthy diet is also important to protect your skin from the sun. A diet high in antioxidant rich foods protects the skin from a sunburn as they act as a protective layer screening the sun from burning the skin. Antioxidants include berries, dark leafy greens, artichokes, green tea, dark chocolate and more.

To help people find a possible melanoma on their skin, dermatologists created the ABCDEs of melanoma:

A is for Asymmetry

If you find a spot on your skin that has any of the ABCDEs of melanoma, see a board-certified dermatologist for a skin exam.

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Are There Different Types Of Radiation In Sunlight


Yes. The types of radiation include:

  • visible light, which gives us the colours we see
  • infrared radiation which gives us the warmth we feel
  • ultraviolet radiation

Except in extreme situations, neither visible light nor infrared radiation from sunlight causes health problems. However, ultraviolet radiation can cause harmful effects to the skin.

There are three basic types of ultraviolet radiation:

  • UVA

Table 1 summarizes the general features of each type.

Table 1 Types of Ultraviolet Radiation and Their Features
Ultraviolet Radiation Type
Ultraviolet A radiation UVA, long-wave UV) -not filtered out in the atmosphere -passes through glass -once considered harmless but now believed harmful over the long term -levels remain relatively constant throughout the day
Ultraviolet B radiation -some filtered out in the atmosphere by the ozone layer -does not pass through glass -causes sunburn, tanning, wrinkling, aging of the skin and skin cancer -highest intensity at noontime
-filtered out in the atmosphere by the ozone layer before reaching earth -major artificial sources are germicidal lamps -burns the skin and causes skin cancer

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Where Melanoma Usually Occurs

Melanoma can occur anywhere on the body, including areas not exposed to the sun, like inside the mouth or the palms of the hands. Men are more likely to get melanomas on their back and trunk or on their head and neck while women are more likely to get them on their arms and legs.

A study in the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology found that melanomas in blacks, Asians, Filipinos, Indonesians, and native Hawaiians most often occur on non-exposed skin with less pigment, with up to 60-75 percent of tumors arising on the palms, soles, mucous membranes and nail regions.

Does Sunlight Cause Skin Cancer

There is evidence that sunlight causes skin cancer. Skin cancer can be treated and cured without serious consequences. However, in some cases the condition can be life-threatening if not diagnosed in time.

Skin cancer is an occupational concern for people who work under the sun. The risk however, may be reduced through awareness of the problem, and by taking measures to prevent exposure to sunlight.

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What Causes Foot Melanoma

Like melanoma that occurs in other parts of the body, exposure to ultraviolet rays is the most common cause of foot melanoma. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, exposure to excessive sunlight and tanning bed use as a teen or young adult significantly increases your risk for melanoma. Excessive UV exposure can also turn a noncancerous mole into melanoma.

Wearing sunscreen and protective clothing can help prevent melanoma when youre outdoors. However, the feet are often neglected in this process and left exposed to UV rays.

What Other Mutations Are Common In Skin Cancer

Signs and Symptoms of Skin Cancer

TP53 is a tumor suppressor gene that is mutated in about 50% of BCC tumors and up to 90% of squamous cell carcinoma tumors.15,13 Inherited mutations in other tumor suppressor genes called CDKN2A and CDK4 have been seen in melanoma that runs in families.14 These mutations may be future targets for therapy.

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Basic Information About Skin Cancer

Cancer is a disease in which cells in the body grow out of control. When cancer starts in the skin, it is called skin cancer.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. Some people are at higher risk of skin cancer than others, but anyone can get it. The most preventable cause of skin cancer is overexposure to ultraviolet light, either from the sun or from artificial sources like tanning beds.

Most skin cancers are caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet rays. To lower your risk of getting skin cancer, you can protect your skin from UV rays from the sun and from artificial sources like tanning beds and sunlamps.While enjoying the benefits of being outdoors, people can decrease skin cancer risk by using sun protection. Protect yourself by staying in the shade, wearing protective clothing, and applying and re-applying a broad spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 15 or higher.Links with this icon indicate that you are leaving the CDC website.

Basal Cell And Squamous Cell Skin Cancers

Basal cell and squamous cell cancers are by far the most common skin cancers, and actually are more common than any other form of cancer. Because they rarely spread to other parts of the body, basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers are usually less concerning and are treated differently from melanoma. These cancers are discussed in Basal and Squamous Cell Skin Cancer.

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The Less Commonly Known Types

As can be seen, limiting your exposure to UV radiation can help reduce your risk of melanoma. The risk of melanoma seems to be increasing in people under 40, especially women.

So, knowing the warning signs of skin cancer can help ensure that cancerous changes are detected. And eventually, treated before cancer has spread. Melanoma can be treated successfully if it is detected early.

As a matter of fact, there are also other less common types of skin cancer that you should know.

Kaposi Sarcoma

According to the research study on Kaposi Sarcoma, its a rare form of skin cancer that develops in the skins blood vessels. In the end, it causes red or purple patches on the skin or mucous membranes.

Kaposi sarcoma mainly occurs in people with weakened immune systems, such as people with AIDS, and in people taking medications that suppress their natural immunity, such as people whove undergone organ transplants.

Other people with an increased risk of Kaposi sarcoma include young men living in Africa or older men of Italian or Eastern European Jewish heritage.

Merkel Cell Carcinoma

As for the Merkel Cell Carcinoma case study, it causes firm, shiny nodules that occur on or just beneath the skin and in hair follicles.

Merkel cell carcinoma is most often found on the head, neck, and trunk.

Sebaceous Gland Carcinoma

From the Sebaceous Gland Carcinoma research, this uncommon and aggressive cancer originates in the oil glands in the skin.

What Is Melanoma Skin Cancer

What causes skin cancer

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops when melanocytes start to grow out of control.

Cancer starts when cells in the body begin to grow out of control. Cells in nearly any part of the body can become cancer, and can then spread to other areas of the body. To learn more about cancer and how it starts and spreads, see What Is Cancer?

Melanoma is much less common than some other types of skin cancers. But melanoma is more dangerous because its much more likely to spread to other parts of the body if not caught and treated early.

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What Is The Staging For Skin Cancer

There is no specific staging system for basal cell carcinoma. If the tumor is wider than 2 cm , it is probably a more serious tumor. Basal cell carcinomas of the ears, nose, and eyelid may also be of more concern, regardless of the size.

There is a staging system for squamous cell carcinoma. Large tumors that are thicker than 2 mm, invade the nerve structures of the skin, occur on the ear, and have certain worrisome characteristics under the microscope are of more concern. If the tumor metastasizes to a site at some distance from the primary tumor, the cancer is likely to be a dangerous tumor.

Causes Of Skin Cancer

Both types of skin cancer occur when mutations develop in the DNA of your skin cells. These mutations cause skin cells to grow uncontrollably and form a mass of cancer cells.

Basal cell skin cancer is caused by ultraviolet rays from the sun or tanning beds. UV rays can damage the DNA inside your skin cells, causing the unusual cell growth. Squamous cell skin cancer is also caused by UV exposure.

Squamous cell skin cancer can also develop after long-term exposure to cancer-causing chemicals. It can develop within a burn scar or ulcer, and may also be caused by some types of human papillomavirus .

The cause of melanoma is unclear. Most moles dont turn into melanomas, and researchers arent sure why some do. Like basal and squamous cell skin cancers, melanoma can be caused by UV rays. But melanomas can develop in parts of your body that arent typically exposed to sunlight.

Your recommended treatment plan will depend on different factors, like the size, location, type, and stage of your skin cancer. After considering these factors, your healthcare team may recommend one or more of the following treatments:

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What Causes Cancer To Form On Your Scalp

The main cause of all types of skin cancer is sun exposure. Your scalp is one of your body parts exposed most to the sun, especially if you are bald or have thin hair. That means its one of the more common spots for skin cancer.

Other potential causes of skin cancer on your scalp include using a tanning bed and having had radiation treatment on your head or neck area.

The best way to prevent skin cancer on your scalp is to protect your scalp when you go into the sun:

  • Wear a hat or other head covering whenever possible.
  • Spray sunscreen on your scalp.

Other ways to help prevent skin cancer on your scalp are:

  • Avoid using tanning beds.
  • Limit your time in the sun.
  • Check your scalp regularly to spot any potential cancerous spots early. This can help stop precancerous lesions from turning into cancer or stop skin cancer from spreading. You can use a mirror to look at the back and top of your scalp more thoroughly.

Can You Prevent Skin Cancer

Cancer Facts : How Does Skin Cancer Develop?

Your best shot at preventing skin cancer is to protect yourself from the damaging rays of the sun by doing the following:

  • Protect your skin with sunblock
  • Wear tight-weave clothing, and a wide-brimmed hat
  • Avoid the outdoors or find shade when the sun is most intense
  • Stay out of the sun when taking certain medications
  • Never use a tanning bed

You cant always prevent skin cancer. But regular skin checks can help you catch it early. The faster its diagnosed and treated, the easier it is to cure.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Vital Signs: Melanoma Incidence and Mortality Trends and Projections — United States, 1982-2030.

American Cancer Society: Cancer Facts & Figures 2016.

American Cancer Society: Melanoma Skin Cancer.

National Cancer Institute: What is Cancer?

Mayo Clinic: Diseases and Conditions, Skin cancer.

Mayo Clinic: Melanoma.

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Prevent Skin Cancer With Sunscreen

So, basically, SPF numbers come from a math equation. Dont worry, I wont ask you to do any math here! Really, what these numbers tell you is how much longer you can soak up the rays before your skin turns red! Its important not to ignore that red glow! Sun damaged skin can show up years later as splotchy spots or even the C word!

Whether its sea or sweat, you should ask about water resistance. This means that your sunscreen keeps protecting after 40 minutes of being in the water. Very water resistant would call for 80 minutes.

In other words, an SPF of 10 would take 10 times the baseline to make your skin red SPF 20 would take 20 times, SPF 30 would take 30 times and so on.

Did you know, that broad spectrum is the most recommended? What makes it broad is based on the amount of time it takes to darken the skin. Definitely, choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen and apply it frequently.

How Can I Tell If I Have Skin Cancer

¿Cómo se ve el cáncer de la piel? ¿Cómo puedo prevenir el cáncer de piel?¿Estoy en riesgo de desarrollar melanoma?Cáncer de piel en personas de colorCómo examinar sus manchasNoe Rozas comparte su

Skin cancer is actually one of the easiest cancers to find. Thats because skin cancer usually begins where you can see it.

You can get skin cancer anywhere on your skin from your scalp to the bottoms of your feet. Even if the area gets little sun, its possible for skin cancer to develop there.

You can also get skin cancer in places that may surprise you. Skin cancer can begin under a toenail or fingernail, on your genitals, inside your mouth, or on a lip.

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Symptoms Of Skin Cancer

Skin cancers arent all identical, and they may not cause many symptoms. Still, unusual changes to your skin can be a warning sign for the different types of cancer. Being alert for changes to your skin may help you get a diagnosis earlier.

Watch out for symptoms, including:

  • skin lesions: A new mole, unusual growth, bump, sore, scaly patch, or dark spot develops and doesnt go away.
  • asymmetry: The two halves of the lesion or mole arent even or identical.
  • border: The lesions have ragged, uneven edges.
  • color: The spot has an unusual color, such as white, pink, black, blue, or red.
  • diameter: The spot is larger than one-quarter inch, or about the size of a pencil eraser.
  • evolving: You can detect that the mole is changing size, color, or shape.


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