Are You At Risk For Developing A Skin Cancer?

May is National Skin Cancer Awareness Month and while no cause of skin cancer has been found, risk factors have been identified. Some risk factors are passed down from parents to children through genes. Other risk factors are activities or lifestyles. Having one or more risk factors doesn’t mean you’ll develop a skin cancer such as melanoma, but here are a few you should consider.

Risk Factors

Ultraviolet Radiation: Body exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The main source of UV radiation is sunlight. Tanning beds also use UV lights

Many or atypical moles: Most moles don’t become malignant. However having many or large or an atypical mole might put you at a higher risk.  Atypical moles run in families and don’t look normal.

Fair complexion: Having a fair complexion raises your risk for developing a skin cancer. Fair complexion is defined as having red or blonde hair, blue or green eyes and skin that easily freckle or sunburns.

Family History:  Melanoma runs in families but only 10 percent of all people with melanoma have a family history.

Xeroderma pigmentosum: A rare medical condition passed down from parents to children. It causes an extreme skin reaction to UV radiation because the skin can’t heal itself.

Age: About one-half of all melanomas occur in people older than age 50. However, melanoma is one of the most common cancers in people younger than age 30. This stems from the high use of tanning beds in this age group.

Immune suppression: Some disease and drugs weaken the immune system. If you have a weakened immune system you are at a higher risk.

What Are The Types of Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer is by far the most common type of cancer. If you have skin cancer, it is important to know which type you have because it affects your treatment options and your outlook (prognosis). Clarify with your health care provider the exact type of skin cancer you are diagnosed with and the treatment options available.

Basal and Squamous Cell Skin Cancers

These cancers most often are found in areas frequently exposed to the sun, such as the head, neck and arms but they also can occur elsewhere. They are very common but are also usually very treatable.

Melanoma Skin Cancer

Melanoma is a much less common but more serious type of cancer. Melanomas are usually brown or black, but can appear pink, tan or even white.

Lymphoma of the Skin

Lymphoma is a cancer that starts in cells that are part of the body’s immune system. Rare lymphomas that start in the skin are called skin lymphomas (or cutaneous lymphomas).

For more information on skin cancer, visit the Health Library on Avera.org and don’t forget to boost your cancer IQ.

By Charlene Berke

Director of the Cancer Center at Avera Queen of Peace Hospital

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