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Diseases and Conditions: Sunshine Can Cause Skin Cancer

Conditions > Diseases and Conditions: Sunshine Can Cause Skin Cancer

Sunshine on your shoulders might make you happy, but it could give you skin cancer too. The American Cancer Society reports that more than one million cases of nonmelanoma skin cancer diagnosed yearly in the U.S. are sun-related. Statistics for 2002 show that 54,200 new cases of melanoma were diagnosed in the United States that year. Approximately 7,600 deaths are attributed to the disease each year.

Nonmelanoma (basal or squamous cell) skin cancer is the most common form of skin cancer. It usually occurs in the basal or squamous cells located at the base of the outer layer of the skin. They also cover the internal and external surfaces of the body. Most non-melanoma skin cancers develop on areas of the body that are frequently exposed to sun including:

  • face
  • ears
  • neck
  • lips
  • backs of hands
  • Depending on the type of cancer, it can be fast or slow growing, but it rarely spreads to other parts of the body like some cancers do.

    Melanoma skin cancer is a more dangerous form. It in the melanocytes. Melanocytes are the cells that produce the skin coloring or pigment called melanin. Melanin protects the deep layers of your skin from excessive exposure to sun. Early detection is critical with melanoma and it is almost always curable when it is found early.

    Feeling Good in Your Own Skin

    The skin is the body’s biggest organ. It has many important bodily functions. Skin:

  • covers the internal organs and protects them from injury
  • serves as a barrier between microbes, such as bacteria, and internal organs
  • prevents the loss of too much water and other fluids
  • regulates body temperature and helps rid the body of excess water and salts
  • cells communicate with the brain and allow for temperature, touch, and pain sensations
  • It is very important to protect your skin from excessive exposure to sun. If you plan to be in the sun, wear clothes that cover your body and protect uncover areas with high-quality sunscreen of 15 SPF or higher. Children don’t know how to protect themselves, so parents must take measures to assure they don’t get burned by the sun.

    It is best to avoid the sun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Stay in the shade when the sun’s rays are strong. It’s a good idea to wear a hat when working or playing in the sun. Sun glasses with 99 to 100 percent UV absorption will protect your eyes. Don’t be fooled by clouds that cover the sun, they will not adequately protect you from harmful rays.

    Risk Factors that Predispose People to Skin Cancer

    Some people are at higher risk to develop skin cancer than others. The American Cancer Society lists the following risk factors:

  • unprotected and/or excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation
  • fair complexion
  • occupational exposures to coal tar, pitch, creosote, arsenic compounds, or radium
  • family history of skin cancer
  • many or atypical moles
  • severe sunburns as a child
  • If you notice any change in the skin, such as the size or color of a mole or other growth or spot with dark pigmentation, contact a physician. Any new growths on the skin should be inspected carefully by a dermatologist or another qualified doctor. Other indications of skin cancer include scaliness, oozing or unexplained bleeding of the skin. If dark pigmentation spreads past the edge of a mole or mark on your skin, get checked by a physician right away. Sometimes skin cancer is noted by itchiness, tenderness or pain in the skin.

    Conditions > Diseases and Conditions: Sunshine Can Cause Skin Cancer