Skin Cancer In Victoria
Over the past 30 years, UV protection programs like the SunSmart program have educated Victorians about the importance of sun protection at every age.
Although the incidence of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer has increased since 2000, recent data from the Victorian Cancer Registry shows rates are stabilising or declining in all age groups under 60 years. Those who have grown up with the SunSmart program for a greater part of their life are benefiting the most with lower rates of melanoma.
Read more about skin cancer.
What Causes Squamous Cell Carcinoma
The cause of most squamous cell carcinoma of the skin is well known. People usually develop this skin cancer because ultraviolet light has badly damaged their skin. Most UV light comes from:
Indoor tanning equipment
Sun exposure without sun protection
Spending time in the sun without protecting your skin from the sun greatly increases your risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma of the skin.
Symptoms On Black And Brown Skin
On dark skin, it may be easier to feel a lesion than see it. People with black skin may be more likely to find a lesion on a part of the body that has little exposure to the sun, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
Skin cancer can affect people with any skin color, but those with brown or black skin are more likely to receive a diagnosis at a later stage. This may be due to a lack of awareness of how skin cancer appears on skin colors other than white.
Anyone who notices an unusual change in their skin should seek medical advice as soon as possible.
The medical community has developed two ways to spot the early symptoms of melanoma. This is the most dangerous type of skin cancer.
A person can use the ABCDE method or the ugly duckling method.
How Is Skin Cancer Diagnosed
Skin cancer is suspected by its appearance on the skin. The diagnosis must be confirmed with a biopsy. This involves taking a sample of the tissue, which is then placed under a microscope and examined by a dermatopathologist, a doctor who specializes in examining skin cells. Sometimes a biopsy can remove all of the cancer tissue and no further treatment is needed.
What Is Squamous Cell Cancer
Squamous cell cancer , also known as squamous cell carcinoma, is a type of skin cancer that typically begins in the squamous cells.
Squamous cells are the thin, flat cells that make up the epidermis, or the outermost layer of the skin.
SCC is caused by changes in the DNA of these cells, which cause them to multiply uncontrollably.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, cutaneous SCC is the second most common form of skin cancer. Approximately 700,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with this type of skin cancer each year.
People with SCC often develop scaly, red patches, open sores, or warts on their skin. These abnormal growths can develop anywhere, but theyre most often found in areas that receive the most exposure to ultraviolet radiation, either from sunlight or from tanning beds or lamps.
The condition usually isnt life threatening, but it can become dangerous if it goes untreated. When treatment isnt received promptly, the growths can increase in size and spread to other parts of your body, causing serious complications.
Uv Exposure In Australia
Australia experiences some of the highest levels of UV radiation in the world, because we are close to the equator and have a lot of clear blue-sky days. The Earth’s orbit also takes countries in the southern hemisphere closer to the sun in our summertime than countries in the northern hemisphere during their summer.
What Are The Different Types Of Skin Cancer
Your skin has multiple layers. The outer, protective layer of the skin is known as the epidermis. The epidermis is made up of squamous cells, basal cells, and melanocytes. These cells are constantly shedding to make way for fresh, new skin cells.
However, when certain genetic changes occur in the DNA of any of these cells, skin cancer can occur. The main types of skin cancer are squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma.
Who Is Most At Risk For Skin Cancer
Although anyone can develop skin cancer, those that are most at risk for skin cancer are people who:
- Have had an organ transplant
- Tan or use tanning beds
- Get easily sunburned
- Have fair or freckled skin
- Have a family history of skin cancer
- Have blue eyes
- Take medications that suppress/weaken the immune system
People who work or spend more time outdoors have an increased risk for skin cancer, especially those in sunny climates. People with darker skin are still able to get skin cancer, but the risk is substantially lower. Organ transplant patients are up to 100 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma skin cancer when compared to the general population, largely because they take medications that suppress their immune systems.
Risk factors unique to melanoma include a history of severe sunburns and an abundance of large and irregular moles.
Reducing Your Skin Cancer Risk
You can take steps to reduce your risk of skin cancer from over-exposure to UV radiation and recreational sun exposure.
Use a combination of the five sun protection measures during the daily sun protection times to reduce your risk, including:
- slip on sun-protective clothing. Make sure it covers as much skin as possible
- slop on SPF30 broad-spectrum, water resistant sunscreen. Apply 20 minutes before going outdoors and reapply every two hours
- slap on a broad-brimmed hat that protects the face, head, neck and ears
- seek shade
- slide on wrap-around sunglasses. Make sure they meet Australian/New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 1067:2003.
UV levels are most intense during the middle of the day.
SunSmart and the Bureau of Meteorology issue daily sun protection times whenever UV index levels are 3 or above This is available as a free SunSmart app, or online at SunSmart or the Bureau of Meteorology, in the weather section of newspapers, or as a free website widget.
Winter activities such as skiing or snowboarding also pose a high risk of skin damage and sunburn. UV radiation is more intense at high altitude than at sea level. This is because the air is clearer and there is less atmosphere to absorb harmful UV rays. Read more about sun protection at the snow.
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.
What Does The Beginning Of Skin Cancer Look Like
This nonmelanoma skin cancer may appear as a firm red nodule, a scaly growth that bleeds or develops a crust, or a sore that doesnt heal. It most often occurs on the nose, forehead, ears, lower lip, hands, and other sun-exposed areas of the body. Squamous cell carcinoma is curable if caught and treated early.
How Can I Help Prevent Sun Damage And Ultimately Skin Cancer
Nothing can completely undo sun damage, although the skin can sometimes repair itself. So, it’s never too late to begin protecting yourself from the sun. Your skin does change with age; for example, you sweat less and your skin can take longer to heal, but you can delay these changes by limiting sun exposure.
Maintaining healthy skin
- Stop smoking: People who smoke tend to have more wrinkles than nonsmokers of the same age, complexion, and history of sun exposure. The reason for this difference is unclear. It may be because smoking interferes with normal blood flow in the skin.
- Apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 30 or greater 30 minutes before sun exposure and then every 2 to 3 hours thereafter. Reapply sooner if you get wet or perspire significantly.
- Select cosmetic products and contact lenses that offer UV protection.
- Wear sunglasses with total UV protection.
- Avoid direct sun exposure as much as possible during peak UV radiation hours between 10 am and 4 pm.
- Perform skin self-exams regularly to become familiar with existing growths and to notice any changes or new growths.
- Relieve dry skin using a humidifier at home, bathing with soap less often , and using a moisturizing lotion.
- Become a good role model and foster skin cancer prevention habits in your child. Eighty percent of a person’s lifetime sun exposure is acquired before age 18.
Understanding UV index
8-10: Very high
11 or higher : Extreme
What Are Other Risk Factors For Skin Cancer
A risk factor is something that increases the risk of getting cancer. Having a risk factor or multiple risk factors does not mean a person will get cancer. There are circumstances where people with multiple risk factors do not get cancer, and some people who get it may have a few or no known risk factors.
However, it is essential to be aware of the risk factors to prevent getting skin cancer. Some of the risk factors include
- Light-colored skin: People with fair skin with the following characteristics are at higher risk of getting skin cancer:
Three Most Common Skin Cancers
It is estimated that one in seven people in the United States will develop some form of skin cancer during their lifetime. Although anyone can get skin cancer, people who burn easily and are fair-skinned are at higher risk. Researchers believe that one serious sunburn can increase the risk of skin cancer by as much as 50%. A yearly skin exam by a doctor is the best way to detect skin cancer early, when it is most treatable. If you have a new growth or any change in your skin, be sure to see your doctor to have it examined. Remember, protecting yourself from the sun is the best way to prevent all forms of skin cancer.
What Happens If You Leave Skin Cancer Untreated
In particular, BCCs rarely spread beyond the initial tumor site. However, left untreated, BCCs can grow deeper into the skin and damage surrounding skin, tissue, and bone. Occasionally, a BCC can become aggressive, spreading to other parts of the body and even becoming life threatening.
There Are 3 Types Of Uv Rays:
- UVA rays reach Earths surface and penetrate through the skin, which can cause damage to the skin and connective tissue.
- UVB rays reach Earths surface less often because they are absorbed by the ozone layer. These can damage DNA and cause sunburn.;
- UVC rays are the most dangerous, however, they dont reach Earths surface.;
Skin Cancer Awareness Month works to shed light on the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatments, and prevention of this cancer. Spreading knowledge to help people protect themselves and their loved ones. Heres more information on the awareness this month brings:
Whats The History Behind Skin Cancer Awareness Month
Skin cancer is one of the most diagnosed cancers year-round, it is also one of the most preventable. About 90 percent of nonmelanoma skin cancers and 85 percent of melanoma cases are associated with exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. This month is utilized to spread the word and prevent more cases of skin cancer.
Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are the two most common types of skin cancer, followed by melanoma. Most cases are caused by exposure to too much ultraviolet light, or UV rays. Once UV rays, invisible radiation, penetrate the skin they can cause damage. Ultraviolet rays come from the sun, sunlamps, and tanning beds.;
What Is Skin Cancer Awareness Month
Skin Cancer Awareness month was created in order to give people resources and updates to protect themselves. Campaigns, articles, and toolkits are only a few examples of the many ways we use this month to inform the public about the dangers of skin cancer.;
May is not only Skin Cancer Awareness Month but also Melanoma Awareness Month. Melanoma, a dangerous form of skin cancer, accounts for only 1% of skin cancer but is the leading cause of death from this form of cancer.
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Who Is At Risk For Skin Cancer
Although anyone can get skin cancer, the risk is greatest in people who have fair or freckled skin that burns easily, light eyes and blond or red hair. Darker-skinned individuals are also susceptible to all types of skin cancer, although their risk is lower.
In addition to complexion, other risk factors include having a family history or personal history of skin cancer, having an outdoor job, and living in a sunny climate. A history of severe sunburns and an abundance of large and irregularly shaped moles are risk factors unique to melanoma.
What Are The Symptoms Of Skin Cancer
Talk to your doctor if you notice changes in your skin such as a new growth, a sore that doesnt heal, a change in an old growth, or any of the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma.
A change in your skin is the most common sign of skin cancer. This could be a new growth, a sore that doesnt heal, or a change in a mole.external icon;Not all skin cancers look the same.
For melanoma specifically, a simple way to remember the warning signs is to remember the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma
- A stands for asymmetrical. Does the mole or spot have an irregular shape with two parts that look very different?
- B stands for border. Is the border irregular or jagged?
- C is for color. Is the color uneven?
- D is for diameter. Is the mole or spot larger than the size of a pea?
- E is for evolving. Has the mole or spot changed during the past few weeks or months?
Talk to your doctor if you notice changes in your skin such as a new growth, a sore that doesnt heal, a change in an old growth, or any of the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma.
What Are Risk Factors For Skin Cancer
Aside from exposure to UV light , the following are possible risk factors for skin cancer:
Heredity. People with a family history of skin cancer are generally at a higher risk of developing the disease. People with fair skin and a northern European heritage appear to be most susceptible.
Multiple nevi or atypical moles
Exposure to coal and arsenic compounds
Elevation. Ultraviolet light is stronger as elevation increases .
Latitude. The rays of the sun are strongest near the equator.
Repeated exposure to X-rays
Scars from disease and burns
Immune suppression, such as in people who have had organ transplants
Prior history of skin cancer
Certain rare inherited conditions, such as basal cell nevus syndrome or xeroderma pigmentosum
Dermatology Care at Sibley
The team from Johns Hopkins Dermatology at Sibley Memorial Hospital consists of highly specialized dermatologists who provide expert treatments in cosmetic, medical, and pediatric dermatology.
What Changes In The Skin Occur Due To Exposure To The Sun
Exposure to sun causes most of the wrinkles and age spots on our faces. People think a glowing complexion means good health, but skin color obtained from being in the sun can actually speed up the effects of aging and increase the risk of developing skin cancer.
Sun exposure causes most of the skin changes that we think of as a normal part of aging. Over time, the sun’s ultraviolet light damages the fibers in the skin called elastin. When these fibers break down, the skin begins to sag, stretch, and lose its ability to go back into place after stretching. The skin also bruises and tears more easily in addition to taking longer to heal. So while sun damage to the skin may not be apparent when you’re young, it will definitely show later in life. The sun can also cause issues for your eyes, eyelids, and the skin around the eyes.
Changes in the skin related to sun exposure:
- Precancerous and cancerous skin lesions caused by loss of the skin’s immune function.
- Benign tumors.
- Fine and coarse wrinkles.
- Freckles; discolored areas of the skin, called mottled pigmentation; and sallowness, yellow discoloration of the skin.
- Telangiectasias, the dilation of small blood vessels under the skin.
- Elastosis, the destruction of the elastic tissue causing lines and wrinkles.
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