When it comes to skin cancer, what you don’t know can actually kill you. In fact, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S.1 And men are among the most at risk.2 Skin cancer rates over the past decade have risen more than 55% for men, and by 2040 melanoma will be the most common kind of cancer found in American men.3, 4
Fortunately, skin cancer and melanoma are also some of the most preventable and treatable kinds of cancer. In this article we’ll tell you about what skin cancer is, where it comes from, and how to prevent it.
What Causes Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer is a disease that causes the body’s skin cells to grow out of control. It’s the most common cancer in the United States, and its root cause is oftentimes overexposure to UV light.5
The most common types of skin cancer are basal and squamous cell carcinomas, named after the layers of the skin in which they begin. Melanoma is the third most common type, and it begins in the melanin-forming cells in the skin called melanocytes.6
What Are The Most Common Places to Get Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer most commonly forms in areas that have high exposure to the sun’s UV rays. Those areas include your scalp, face, nose, ears, and lips, so skin cancer on your face is very common. Neck, chest, arms, hands, and legs are also highly susceptible.7 However, skin cancer can also form in other areas, so it’s important to check for skin cancer all over your body.
What Does Skin Cancer Look Like? Signs of Skin Cancer
When looking for signs of skin cancer, be aware of any scaly patches, irregularly colored or shaped moles, hardened skin formations, or persistent roughness.8 Melanoma often appears as a mole or pigmented area.
Contact your doctor or dermatologist if you're ever unsure about a mark on your skin.
Other Skin Cancer Symptoms
Skin cancer can have other symptoms too. Non-melanoma skin cancer can bleed or form a crust. It can also appear as a sore that won’t heal.9 Skin cancer can also itch.
Common Types of Skin Cancer
There are three major types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.10 They’re each named for the type of skin in which they form, and they have different symptoms and appearances.
1. Basal cell carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma begins in basal cells—the type that produces new skin cells to replace old ones.
Basal cell carcinoma may appear as:
- A shiny, skin-colored bump
- A brown, black or blue lesion
- A flat, scaly patch
- A white, waxy, scar-like lesion
Common treatments for basal cell carcinoma include Mohs surgery (where cancerous cells are progressively cut out), radiation, laser surgery, and topical medications, among others.11
2. Squamous cell carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma develops in the middle and outer layers of the skin. It’s not typically life threatening, but can be aggressive, especially when left untreated.
Squamous cell carcinoma may appear as:
- Firm, red nodule
- Flat sore with a scaly crust
- Sore or raised area on an old scar or ulcer
- Rough, scaly patch on your lip
- Red sore or rough patch inside your mouth
- Red, raised patch or wart-like sore on or in the anus or genitals
Treatment for squamous cell carcinoma include excisional surgery (where cancerous areas are removed altogether), Mohs surgery (where cancerous cells are progressively cut out), cryosurgery (in which cancerous skin is frozen and removed), curettage (where cancerous cells are surgically scooped out), and electrosurgery.12
The most serious type of skin cancer, malignant melanoma, develops in melanocytes, the cells that produce melanin, your skin’s pigment. Melanoma can also form on non-skin areas such as the eyes, nose, or throat.13
Melanoma symptoms may appear as:
- Moles with an asymmetrical shape
- Moles with an irregular border
- Moles that change color
- Moles that grow quickly
- Moles that change shape or color
Treatment for melanoma usually includes surgical removal, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, chemotherapy, and radiation.
How is Skin Cancer Treated?
Nearly all skin cancers can be cured if discovered and treated early. Check your skin for skin growths that change in size, shape or color. See your dermatologist yearly for a professional skin check-up.14 Once discovered, you have many options to treat skin cancer:
- Mohs surgery
Can Skin Cancer Be Prevented?
You can prevent many kinds of skin cancer by avoiding overexposure to UV light. The best methods include using an SPF 30+ as part of your daily routine year-round. We recommend using one with naturally derived ingredients.
You can also use physical protection like hats and long-sleeve shirts. Be sure to avoid tanning beds. Also, see a dermatologist for a yearly skin cancer check, as well as any time skin growths change color, shape, or size.15
The Best Way to Prevent Skin Cancer
Preventing skin cancer is all about a routine and focusing on commonly affected areas. Here are some of the best ways to prevent skin cancer.16
- Use Broad Spectrum SPF 30+ as part of a daily routine year round
- Stay in the shade
- Wear UV-protective hats and cover your arms and legs
- Avoid tanning beds
Build Your Daily Sun Protection Routine with Natural SPF from Oars + Alps
You can prevent many different kinds of skin cancer by using SPF as part of a daily routine. Shop SPF Essentials from Oars + Alps today.
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