Skin Cancer Awareness: Understanding the Types and Risk Factors
Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer worldwide, affecting millions every year. The silver lining is that skin cancer is highly treatable when detected early enough, so understanding the types of skin cancer and their risk factors is crucial for early intervention and prevention.
Types of Skin Cancer
There are 3 main types of skin cancer, each with its own characteristics:
- Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer, typically appearing as a pinkish bump or a small, pearly-white lesion. Basal Cell Carcinomas are slow to grow and rarely metastasize to other areas of the body, but they can still cause damage if left untreated.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer. It generally presents as red, scaly patches or a firm bump. Squamous Cell Carcinomas grow more quickly than Basal Cell Carcinomas and also have a higher risk of spreading to other parts of the body if not treated early enough.
- Melanoma is less common than both Basal Cell Carcinoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma, but it is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. Melanoma can develop from existing moles or appear as new spots on the skin. Early detection and treatment are critical.
Skin Cancer Risk Factors
Several factors increase the risk of developing skin cancer:
- Ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure from tanning beds and sunlight is the most significant risk factor for skin cancer. Prolonged sun exposure without adequate protection (such as sunscreen) can damage skin cells, increasing the risk of cancer.
- People with fair skin, light colored eyes and light colored hair (such as blonde or red) are more susceptible to UV radiation damage.
- A family history of skin cancer can elevate your risk, especially if a close relative has a history of melanoma.
- Abnormal moles or a high number of moles on the body are associated with an increased risk of melanoma.