Basal And Squamous Cell Skin Cancer Risk Factors
A risk factor is anything that raises your risk of getting a disease such as cancer. Different cancers have different risk factors. Some risk factors, like smoking and excess sun exposure, can be changed. Others, like your age or family history, cant be changed.
Having a risk factor, or even many risk factors, does not mean that you will get skin cancer. Many people with risk factors for skin cancer never get it. And some people who do get it may have few or no known risk factors.
Still, its important to know about the risk factors for skin cancer because there may be things you can do that could lower your risk of getting it. If you are at higher risk because of certain factors, there are also things you can do that might help find it early, when its likely to be easier to treat.
Several risk factors make a person more likely to get basal cell or squamous cell skin cancer.
Major Types Of Skin Cancers And Their Distribution In People Of Color
Skin cancer is mainly divided into two main categories as Non melanoma Skin Cancer and Melanoma Skin Cancer . Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer includes basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma . Each of these most common cancers viz. Basal cell carcinoma , squamous cell carcinoma , and melanoma is named after the type of skin cell from which it arises and has been linked to the varying degree of sun exposure .
NMSC greatly outnumber melanomas in incidence but fortunately most are much easier to treat and have much better long-term prognosis . They are less deadly than melanoma mainly due to their tendency to remain confined to their primary site of disease which makes their management much more straightforward. The devastating majority of keratinocyte malignancies progress in the areas of skin most exposed to UV such as on the face and arms . The BCC and the SCCs often carry a UV-signature mutation indicating that these cancers are caused by UV-B radiation via the direct DNA damage . Although Asians display relative protection from basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, incidence rates of these non melanoma skin cancers have been increasing over 3 to 8 percent annually in the past three decades . Features of different types of skin cancers are listed in .
Protect Your Skin From Skin Cancer
Looking after your skin now can help you avoid skin cancer in the future.
Follow these five simple steps to prevent skin damage
- Cover up wear long sleeves, trousers or things like sarongs on hot days.
- Use suncream make sure its water resistant and at least factor 30
- Wear a hat or cap whatever style you like, it can help protect you from the sun
- Wear sunglasses your eyes need protection too
- Stay in the shade especially between 11am and 3pm.
The information on this page is more than three years old.
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A Family History Of Cancer
Most people who have relatives with cancer will not have inherited a faulty gene. Cancer mostly occurs in older people. It is a common disease. 1 in 2 people in the UK born after 1960 will be diagnosed with some form of cancer during their lifetime. So, most families will have at least one person who has or has had cancer. Having a couple of relatives diagnosed with cancer doesnt mean there is a cancer gene fault running in the family.
In families with an inherited faulty gene, there is usually a pattern of specific types of cancer running in the family. The strength of your family history depends on:
- who in your family has had cancer
- the types of cancer they have had
- how old they were at diagnosis
- how closely related the relatives with cancer are to each other
The more relatives who have had the same or related types of cancer, and the younger they were at diagnosis, the stronger someones family history is. This means that it is more likely that the cancers are being caused by an inherited faulty gene.
This family tree shows a pattern of cancer that could be caused by an inherited faulty gene.
What Causes Skin Cancer
The main cause of skin cancer is overexposure to sunlight, especially when it results in sunburn and blistering. Ultraviolet rays from the sun damage DNA in your skin, causing abnormal cells to form. These abnormal cells rapidly divide in a disorganized manner, forming a mass of cancer cells.
Another cause of skin cancer is frequent skin contact with certain chemicals, such as tar and coal.
Many other factors can increase your risk of developing skin cancer. See question, Who is most at risk for skin cancer?
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Screening For Skin Cancer
Again, the best way to screen for skin cancer is knowing your own skin. If you are familiar with the freckles, moles, and other blemishes on your body, you are more likely to notice quickly if something seems unusual.
To help spot potentially dangerous abnormalities, doctors recommend doing regular self-exams of your skin at home. Ideally, these self-exams should happen once a month, and should involve an examination of all parts of your body. Use a hand-held mirror and ask friends or family for help so as to check your back, scalp, and other hard-to-see areas of skin. If you or someone else notices a change on your skin, set up a doctors appointment to get a professional opinion.
Skin Pigment And Ability To Tan
Ultraviolet radiation from sunlight affects everybody’s skin to some extent, but the skin’s response varies widely from person to person. Peoples’ sensitivity to the sun varies according to the amount of pigment in the skin and the skin’s ability to tan.
Ultraviolet radiation causes tanning in two different ways: by immediate tanning and by delayed tanning. Immediate tanning causes the skin to darken in response to UVA. This darkening begins during the period of exposure, but fades within a few hours or days. The amount of tanning increases according to the skin’s natural darkness and previous amount of tanning.
Delayed tanning occurs two to three days after exposure to either UVA or UVB. It lasts from several weeks to months, and is maintained by repeated exposure to sunlight. With delayed tanning, the skin increases its production and distribution of dark pigment. The skin also becomes thicker. These changes can follow sunburning or develop gradually over a long period of repeated brief exposures to sunlight.
Some people burn easily after the first hour of sun exposure following winter or any period away from the sun. Other people, especially those with dark skin, rarely burn. This difference in reaction makes it possible to classify skin into one of six different types .
Table adapted from: SunSmart Victoria , Australia
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How Does Sunlight Affect The Skin
When ultraviolet radiation reaches the skin, some radiation is reflected away from the surface. The remaining radiation is scattered into the tissues just beneath the skin’s surface. A fraction of this radiation is absorbed by the skin’s living cells.
Ultraviolet radiation absorbed by living cells damages sensitive substances that influence the skin’s normal growth and appearance. Damage can result in:
- increased rate of aging of the skin
- skin cancer
Who Is Most At Risk For Skin Cancer
Although anyone can develop skin cancer, youre at increased risk if you:
- Spend a considerable amount of time working or playing in the sun.
- Get easily sunburned have a history of sunburns.
- Live in a sunny or high-altitude climate.
- Tan or use tanning beds.
- Have light-colored eyes, blond or red hair and fair or freckled skin.
- Have many moles or irregular-shaped moles.
- Have actinic keratosis .
- Have a family history of skin cancer.
- Have had an organ transplant.
- Take medications that suppress or weaken your immune system.
- Have been exposed to ultraviolet light therapy for treating skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis.
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What Is The Outlook For People With Skin Cancer
Nearly all skin cancers can be cured if they are treated before they have a chance to spread. The earlier skin cancer is found and removed, the better your chance for a full recovery. Ninety percent of those with basal cell skin cancer are cured. It is important to continue following up with a dermatologist to make sure cancer does not return. If something seems wrong, call your doctor right away.
Most skin cancer deaths are from melanoma. If you are diagnosed with melanoma:
- The five-year survival rate if its detected before it spreads to the lymph nodes is 99%.
- The five-year survival rate if it has spread to nearby lymph nodes is 66%.
- The five-year survival rate if it has spread to distant lymph nodes and other organs is 27%.
When Melanoma Can’t Be Cured
If your cancer has spread and it is not possible to cure it by surgery, your doctor may still recommend treatment. In this case, treatment may help to relieve symptoms, might make you feel better and may allow you to live longer.
Whether or not you choose to have anti-cancer treatment, symptoms can still be controlled. For example, if you have pain, there are effective treatments for this.
General practitioners, specialists and palliative care teams in hospitals all play important roles in helping people with cancer.
About 1 In 5 Americans Will Develop Skin Cancer Find Out The Facts About This Common Disease
Skin cancer is by far the most common cancer in the United States close to 10,000 people are diagnosed every day. Despite public health warnings to wear sunscreen, cases of the most dangerous form of skin cancer melanoma have been rising rapidly over the last few decades. But the news about skin cancer is not all bad: When treated early, even melanoma has a 5-year survival rate of 92%.
Heres what you need to know about your chances of getting skin cancer, the different types of skin cancer and what to expect for treatment.
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:
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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Your Skin Is Fair Or Dark
No matter the tone of your skin, you can still develop skin cancer. Even though the rates of skin cancer are lower in people with dark skin tones, skin cancer in that group can be more deadly. However, melanoma rates are highest in non-Hispanic Caucasians.
Although most skin cancers are caused by the suns UVA and UVB rays, not all skin cancer is sun-related. Especially in women and men who have dark skin tones, skin cancer tends to develop in areas that rarely see the light of day, such as between the fingers and toes or on the soles of the feet.
Every month, be sure to inspect your skin thoroughly from top-to-bottom, looking for moles that have changed shape or size, or new lesions, particularly ones that are multicolored, oozing, or dont heal. Use a mirror for hard-to-check areas, such as your back, scalp, and between your buttocks.
Continue Learning About Skin Cancer Causes & Risk Factors
Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.
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Is It Safer To Use A Sunbed Rather Than To Sunbathe In The Sun
No. Using a sunbed isnt safer than sunbathing. And sunbeds wont protect you from sunburn or damage to your skin from sunbathing.
Sunbeds are sometimes marketed as a way of getting a safer tan. But there is no such thing as a safe tan from UV radiation. One study found that skin cancer risk from sunbeds can be more than double that of spending the same time in the Mediterranean midday summer sun.
Who Should Have A Skin Cancer Check
If you think you have a high risk of skin cancer, speak to your doctor. It is also important you become familiar with your skin so that you can pick up any changes. Most melanomas are found by individuals themselves or by their partners or other family members.
Look out for:
- any crusty sores that dont heal
- changes to the colour, size, shape or thickness of moles and freckles over a period of weeks or months
- new spots
- small lumps that are red, pale or pearly in colour
If you notice any of the above, its important to see your doctor.
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Who Gets Skin Cancer
Skin cancer tends to affect people of light skin color because they’re born with the least amount of protective melanin in their skin. The odds are highest if you’re:
- A blue-eyed blonde
- Someone with a pigment disorder, such as albinism
People with many freckles or moles, particularly odd-looking ones, may be vulnerable to melanoma. It’s possible for dark-skinned people to get skin cancer, but it’s rare and usually on lighter areas of their body, such as the soles of the feet or under fingernails or toenails.
Where you live also plays a role. Places with intense sunshine, such as Arizona and Hawaii, have a larger share of people with skin cancer. It’s more common in places where fair-skinned people moved from less sunny areas, like Australia, which was settled largely by fair-skinned people of Irish and English descent.
About 3 times more men than women get skin cancer. It’s more likely when you’re older. Most people diagnosed are between ages 45 and 54, although more younger people are now being affected. If you or any close relatives have had skin cancer, your chances go up.
How Do Sunbeds Cause Skin Cancer
Like the sun, sunbeds, sunlamps and tanning booths give off ultraviolet radiation. This radiation can damage the DNA in your skin cells. If enough damage builds up over time, it can cause cells to start growing out of control.
This can lead to skin cancer, including melanoma skin cancer a type that can spread to other areas of the body.
You cant always see the damage that UV rays cause as it builds up slowly. But every time you use a sunbed you are damaging your skin, increasing the risk of both melanoma skin cancer and visible skin damage.
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How Is Melanoma Treated
Melanoma treatment can include:
- surgery to remove the cancerous lesion
- chemotherapy: tumor-killing medicines are given by mouth, through an injection , or intravenously
- targeted therapy: specific medicines that find and attack cancer cells without hurting normal cells
- immunotherapy : when doctors stimulate the body’s own immune system to fight cancer cells
The treatment chosen depends on:
- how big and how deep the lesion is
- what part of the body it is on
- whether the cancer has spread
Why Does Skin Cancer Occur In More Non
Scientists dont fully know why people of skin with color develop cancer in non-sun-exposed areas, such as their hands and feet. They think that the sun is less of a factor though. However, dermatologists still see plenty of UV sunlight-induced melanomas and squamous cell skin cancer in people of color, in skin tones ranging from fair to very dark.
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What Does Skin Cancer Look Like
There are many different types of skin cancer . Each type looks different. Also, skin cancer in people with dark skin often looks different from skin cancer in people with fair skin. A change on the skin is the most common sign of skin cancer. This may be any new growth on the skin, a sore that doesn’t heal, or a change in an old growth.
If you notice a change on your skin, see your doctor. Don’t wait until the change looks like the more advanced skin cancers in these photos.
Treatment Options For Skin Cancer
The goal of any skin cancer treatment is to remove the cancer before it has a chance to spread. If the skin cancer has spread to nearby tissues or organs, treating the cancer becomes more difficult. If it hasnt spread, though, treating skin cancer is often very successful.
Treatment options include:
- Surgery. Surgically removing the cancerous spot is a common option. In some cases, the spot can be removed easily in a doctors office. More advanced cases may require in-depth surgery.
- Cryosurgery. This type of surgery freezes the affected skin, killing the cancerous cells. Over time, the dead skin cells fall off.
- Immunotherapy. Immunotherapy uses a persons immune system to target and destroy cancer. In the case of skin cancer, a medicated cream is applied to the cancerous area. The immune system then works to destroy the cancer.
- Chemotherapy. If skin cancer has progressed beyond the skin, chemotherapy can help target and kill any cancer cells surgery cant remove. Chemotherapy comes in several forms, including oral medication, injected shots, and IV infusions. It can even be applied to the skin.
- Radiation therapy. Radiation seeks out and destroys cancer cells. Radiation is used to treat a larger area, or an area thats too difficult to treat with surgery.
- In this type of therapy, a chemical is applied to the skin cancer. After staying on the skin for many hours, the skin is exposed to a special light, destroying the cancer cells.
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