This is What You Need to Know About Skin Cancer from This is What You Need to Know About Skin Cancer

This is What You Need to Know About Skin Cancer

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This is What You Need to Know About Skin Cancer

Each year over 5.4 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are treated in more than 3.3 million people. One in five Americans will develop the disease in the course of a lifetime and one person dies of melanoma every 54 minutes, according to the Skin Care Foundation. An estimated 9,730 people will die of this type of cancer in 2017.

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It’s the most common cancer in the U.S.

More than 2 million people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the U.S. and the incidence continues to rise. About 1.3 million of them are diagnosed with non-melanoma cancer, the UCSF School of Medicine says. On average, one American dies from melanoma every 52 minutes, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

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Melanoma is the most aggressive kind of skin cancer

There are three main types of skin cancer. More than 5 million basal and squamous cell skin cancers are diagnosed each year. Melanoma, the most deadly type of skin cancer, will account for about 76,380 cases of skin cancer in 2016, according to the American Cancer Society. Other non-melanoma skin cancers account for less than 1 percent. Melanoma is the deadliest because it’s directly related to sun exposure. Its rates in the U.S. have doubled from 1982 to 2011, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).

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People with fair skin are at higher risk

Melanin, which causes skin darkening, is protective against skin cancer. People with fair skin, blonde or red hair, blue or green eyes, and freckles usually have less natural melanin, putting them at higher risk. Caucasians have an increased risk of developing skin cancer than non-whites, according to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

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Skin cancers are increasingly being found in young people

People with family history of skin cancer and with multiple atypical moles are at higher risk. Also, the older you get, the higher your chances are of developing skin cancer due to accumulated exposure to UV radiation. But skin cancers are increasingly being found in younger individuals, according to Dr. Elizabeth Hale, senior vice president of the Foundation and board-certified dermatologist. The theory is that because they are spending more time outside. Weakened immune system, genetics and long-term skin inflammation are also risk factors.

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Watch out for any changes in your skin

Any changes on your skin, especially in the size or color of a mole, growth, or spot, or a new growth, even if it has no color, can be a sign of skin cancer, the American Cancer Society warns. Other symptoms include scaliness, roughness, oozing, bleeding, or a changes in the way an area of the skin looks; a sore that doesn’t heal; the spreading of pigment beyond its border, such as dark coloring that spreads past the edge of a mole or mark; and a change in sensation, such as itchiness, tenderness, or pain.

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You can get cancer in the skin around the eyes

Skin cancers of the eyelid, including basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma, account for five to 10 percent of all skin cancers. Ninety five percent of these tumors are basal cell carcinomas or squamous cell carcinomas, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Eyelid tumors often grow under the skin for years before presenting on the surface. Make sure you wear sunglasses to protect your eyes and the skin around them.

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Sunscreen lotions are not sufficient protection

A number of studies suggest that the use of sunscreen does not significantly decrease the risk skin cancer, and may actually increase the risk of sunburns. People seem to forget that the sun sends two types of harmful rays: UVA and UVB. Most sunscreens protect just against UVB. Even though UVA rays don’t cause sunburn, they penetrate deeper into the skin and cause damage to DNA. The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a Washington-based research group, did a study which showed that many sunscreens are ineffective or contain harmful chemicals.

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Not all skin cancers have to do with UV rays

The sun causes 90 percent of all skin cancers. But a study has shown that a large increase in reported incidence is likely to be due to diagnostic drift which classifies benign lesions as stage 1 melanoma. “There was no change in the combined incidence of the other stages of the disease, and the overall mortality only increased from 2.16 to 2.54 cases per 100,000 per year.” The researchers concluded that their findings should lead to “re-evaluation of the role of ultraviolet radiation and recommendations for protection from it.”

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Read the labels

Don’t just buy the first product you see that says SPF 30. Choose a sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or higher, is water resistant, and provides broad-spectrum coverage, which means it protects you from UVA and UVB rays, the American Academy of Dermatology says.

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Apply sunscreen the right way

Apply at least 15 minutes before you go outside, and apply enough. Most adults need about the amount they can hold in their palm to fully cover all exposed areas. Doctors recommend that people apply sunscreen lotion with an SPF of at least 30 at least every two hours.

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Some common meds increase sun sensitivity

From common antibiotics to heart medications, certain drugs can increase sun sensitivity, causing the skin to burn in less time and with a lower level of sun exposure than normal. Studies have shown that these medications may act photosensitizing agents and may increase the incidence of skin cancer, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Doxycycline, an antibiotic used to treat acne, anti-aging Retin-A cream, and some blood pressure medications like HCTZ, are known to cause skin sensitivity, Dr. Hale says.

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Suntan booths are dangerous

“They are incredibly dangerous and, unfortunately, very poplar,” Dr. Hale says. By using tanning beds and lamps you are exposing your skin to ultraviolet radiation. “Even before you’re 35, you increase your chance of developing skin cancer by 75 percent; each session increases it by additional 20 percent,” she adds. Also, people tend to expose parts of the body that don’t normally see a lot of sun, Dr. Hale says. These areas are very sensitive and prone to skin cancer.

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Early detection is crucial

Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, the two most common forms of skin cancer, are highly curable if detected early and treated properly, AAD says. The 5-year survival rate for people whose melanoma is detected and treated before it spreads to the lymph nodes is 98 percent. For stage IA, the 5-year survival rate is around 97 percent; the 10-year survival is around 95 percent, according to the American Cancer Society.

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Know the ABCDE rule

The ABCDE rule is an effective way of recognizing skin cancer, Dr. Hale says. Asymmetry: Look at your moles and see if they have irregular shapes or two different looking halves. Border: Edges that seem blurred, rough or notched may be an indication of a problemColor: Most moles are brown, black or pink. See your doctor if they change color at any point or spot. Diameter: “We’ve gotten much better at diagnosing very small melanomas, which is why the diameter factor is not as important anymore,” Dr. Hale says. Still, you should see a dermatologist if you have moles with a diameter of more than a quarter of an inch. Evolution:  “This is the most important one,” Dr. Hale says. If you see any change at all in any of the moles you have, you should see a doctor right away.

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Get a skin exam once a year

See a doctor for a professional skin exam once a year, more often if you are at a higher risk. Expect to take all clothes off. A misshapen mole may look cute to you but it may be malignant. Some cancer can take months to develop, but melanoma, for example, is a fast growing aggressive type of skin cancer.

This is What You Need to Know About Skin Cancer