Worried About Skin Cancer? Know Your Risks
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. While it can often be treated and cured successfully, it can sometimes be fatal. Even if the cancer is treatable, the process is unpleasant and expensive.
If you worry about getting skin cancer, there are several things you can do to help prevent it-and there are several risk factors that you can’t change. Learn what can put you at risk and what you can do to lessen your chances of getting skin cancer.
What You Can’t Change
Some risk factors are part of your genetic code, so you can’t avoid them. However, just because you are more at risk doesn’t mean that you’ll get skin cancer. However, you should watch carefully for the early signs of cancer-talk with your doctor to learn more.
If your parents, aunts, uncles, or grandparents have battled skin cancer, your chances of getting it increase significantly. While doctors and researchers are not sure what causes skin cancer, the evidence suggests that genetics make you more susceptible.
If you’ve already had skin cancer, your genes may give you a predisposition to the disease, and you are more likely to get it again.
Anyone can get skin cancer, but those with light skin are more likely to develop it. The pigmentation in darker skin tones can protect the skin from cancer-causing ultraviolet (UV) radiation. If you have very white skin, blond or red hair, and tend to burn or freckle easily, you are the most at risk.
If you tend to develop many moles and precancerous skin lesions, one of them may turn cancerous at some point. Make sure to keep in touch with your dermatologist about changes in your skin, especially abnormal moles and lesions.
Weakened Immune System
Those who have weak or damaged immune systems may get skin cancer more easily. If you have HIV or AIDS, your immune system may be damaged. Or, if you take an immunosuppressant for an autoimmune disease or for an organ transplant, your immune system may not function as well. As a result, your risk of getting skin cancer is higher.
The older you are, the more likely you are to develop skin cancer. Most researchers believe cancer is more likely in older folks because they have accumulated years of skin damage.
Though the reason is unclear, men are twice as likely to develop skin cancer as women. This higher risk could be because men tend to be outside and sustain more damage from UV radiation, or it could be from genetic factors.
None of these factors means that you will surely get skin cancer. However, the more risk factors you have, the more careful you need to be. The next section will explain what risk factors you can control. If you’re already at risk for skin cancer, be sure to lower your risk in these areas.
What You Can Control
Take care of your skin in these ways to reduce your risk of skin cancer:
The biggest risk factor for skin cancer is getting repeated sunburns. You can’t undo the ones you’ve already had, but you can prevent future ones. Wear sunscreen on exposed skin when you’re out in the sun.
Don’t Use Tanning Beds
The reason sunburns are dangerous is because the sun contains ultraviolet rays that damage your skin cells. If you use a tanning bed, the light will contain much, much more UV radiation than sunshine. Even though you won’t get a sunburn, you’ll still damage your skin.
Smoking already promotes other sorts of cancers, such as lung and throat cancer. However, it can also put you at risk for certain kinds of skin cancer, especially on the lips. Kick the habit to better your chances of staying healthy.
Discontinue Radiation Treatment
If you receive radiation for skin conditions like acne or eczema, you may raise your skin cancer risk. Stopping this treatment is something to discuss with your doctor. If your other risk factors are low, continuing radiation treatment might be okay, but if you are already at risk for skin cancer, you may have to look into other options.
Though you can’t control everything, you can take significant steps towards reducing your skin cancer risk. Take care of your skin, especially in the summer sunshine, and you’ll be more likely to stay skin cancer-free, which means you’ll avoid a lot of pain, fear, hardship, and expense.
If you’re worried about an odd mole or lesion, or if you want to learn more about skin cancer, talk to your doctor. If you need a precancerous or cancerous skin abnormality removed, come to Dermatology Surgery Center. Our experienced surgeons can remove the problem, answer your questions, and provide you with information about follow-up care.