Skin cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the skin cells. It occurs when the skin cells are damaged by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or other sources, such as tanning beds. The damaged skin cells start to grow uncontrollably and form a mass of abnormal cells.
The main cause of skin cancer is exposure to UV radiation from the sun, although other factors such as genetics, immune system disorders, and exposure to certain chemicals can also increase the risk of developing skin cancer.
There are several types of skin cancer, including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Here is the difference between the three:
- Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC): This is the most common type of skin cancer. It usually develops on sun-exposed areas such as the face, neck, and arms. BCC grows slowly and rarely spreads to other parts of the body. It may appear as a pearly or waxy bump, or a flat, flesh-colored or brown scar-like lesion.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC): This is the second most common type of skin cancer. It typically appears as a red, scaly patch or a wart-like growth that may bleed. SCC can also develop on sun-exposed areas but can also occur on other areas of the body. It can spread to other parts of the body if not treated early.
- Melanoma: This is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. It usually appears as a new or existing mole that changes in size, shape, or color. It can also appear as a dark, irregularly shaped patch with uneven borders. Melanoma can spread quickly to other parts of the body and can be life-threatening if not treated early.
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, and it’s important to take steps to prevent it. Here are some tips to protect your skin from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays and reduce your risk:
- Seek Shade: Stay in the shade during peak sun hours, when the sun’s rays are strongest, typically between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Wear Protective Clothing: Wear lightweight long sleeved shirts, pants, a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses, if out in the sun. There is also some clothing that provides UV protection.
- Wear Sunscreen: Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. Apply generously and reapply every two hours if you are continuously outside.
- Avoid Tanning Beds: Tanning beds can increase your risk of skin cancer, so it’s best to avoid them altogether.
- Exam your skin: Regularly examine your skin for any new or changing moles or spots. See a dermatologist if you notice any changes.
Not all skin changes are caused by skin cancer, but it is important to see a dermatologist to determine a cause. It is also important to note that detection of skin cancer gives you the best chance for a successful skin cancer treatment. To schedule an appointment with one of our well-trained dermatologists, click the link to schedule online, https://self.schdl.com/patient/1013 or call us at (520)382-3330.
Weimin Hu, MD, PhD
Board Certified Dermatologist