Am I at Risk for Skin Cancer?

Am I at Risk for Cancer GraphicThe majority of individuals think skin cancer will never affect them. The truth is, anyone and everyone can be diagnosed with skin cancer at any time. In fact, skin cancer is the country’s most common form of cancer.

The purpose of this article is to increase skin cancer awareness.

At Arizona Dermatology, we believe that how to identify the common types of skin cancer and taking preventative actions are tools you can use to potentially save your life.

What are the Different Types of Skin Cancer?

When it comes to skin cancer, being knowledgeable is key. Here we want to inform you of the various types of skin cancer, as well as the risks and treatments for each type. You may be more at risk to a certain type of skin cancer over others based off of varying factors. Because of this, it is crucial for you to fully comprehend the three most common types of skin cancer: Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC), Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) and Malignant Melanoma.

Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)

First, we’ll start with Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC), which is the world’s most common form of skin cancer. Coming in many different shapes and sizes, BCCs are abnormal growths or lesions. This form of skin cancer often looks like red open sores that typically appear on sun-exposed areas such as: the face, neck, legs, and scalp. Basal Cell Carcinoma can appear on anyone with a history sun exposure, however, signs that you’re at a higher risk for BCC than normal include:

  • Fair skin
  • Blue or green eyes
  • Red or blonde hair
  • Repeat exposure to the sun
  • Long-term sunburns
  • Prior family history of BCC
  • Identifying as Caucasian, Hispanic, Chinese, or Japanese American

Basal Cell Carcinoma, when detected in its earliest stage, is treatable. One treatment that offers the highest cure rate for skin cancer is Mohs Micrographic Surgery (Mohs). Mohs surgery involves strategically removing the cancerous tumor, layer by layer. Some advantages to this surgery when performed by Arizona Dermatology, include receiving your results the same day as your procedure and knowing you’re cancer-free upon leaving your appointment. Should you choose to treat your skin cancer with Mohs Surgery, we ask you to schedule appropriate follow up appointments to help monitor the progress of your treatment.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)

The next most common form of skin cancer within the United States is Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC). SCC appears as rough, thick, scabbed, or elevated areas on the body that tend to bleed when scratched or picked. This form of cancer can be found anywhere on your skin, but the most common areas are sun-exposed regions such as: the face, lower lip, hands, legs, arms, scalp, and the rim of the ear. While SCC is found most commonly in women and individuals over 50 years old, your risk of being diagnosed increases with:

  • Fair skin
  • Blue or green eyes
  • Red or blonde hair
  • A history of indoor tanning
  • Other skin conditions or lacerations that have not healed properly
  • Identifying as Caucasian or Asian

If Squamous Cell Carcinoma is detected within its early stages, treatment is available. Like BCC, the most beneficial action for combatting SCC is prompt removal through Mohs Surgery. Mohs Surgery has the highest overall cure rate of about 94 to 99 percent for SCC and has been noted to be the most cosmetically pleasing surgery you could have, leaving little to no scaring. To determine if this treatment is right for your condition, schedule an appointment with your dermatologist today.

Malignant Melanoma

The final type of skin cancer we’ll cover is Melanoma (also called Malignant Melanoma). Melanoma is considered one of the most common forms of skin cancer and is widely recognized as the most dangerous type, responsible for approximately 75 percent of all skin cancer deaths. The majority of individuals categorize Melanoma as impacting people strictly through abnormal moles on the skin. While this is true, Melanoma can also impact other areas on the body.

Many people don’t realize that there are three differing categories of Melanoma including: Cutaneous Melanoma, Mucosal Melanoma and Ocular Melanoma. Which in other words impact the skin, mucous membrane, and eyes. As a common factor for almost all skin cancers, the main causation of Melanoma is repeat exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. However, your risk of developing this type of skin cancer increases with:

  • Fair skin
  • Blue or green eyes
  • Red or blonde hair
  • A history of sunburns
  • Atypical moles
  • A weak immune system
  • Prior family or personal history of Melanoma

When allowed to spread, Melanoma can become life-threatening. Because of the severity of this type of cancer, treatment for Melanoma is best diagnosed by your dermatologist. Contact an Arizona Dermatologist right away if you see any abnormalities, growths, or changes anywhere upon your skin.

Who is Most Susceptible to Skin Cancer?

Now that we’ve fully covered the three most common forms of skin cancer, let’s take a look at the varying influences that impact your vulnerability to this disease. Below are the overarching factors that heighten your risk of being impacted.

  • Age
  • Skin type
  • Personal history
  • Family history
  • Sun exposure

Age

According to most beauty articles “age is just a number.” However, in the case of skin cancer, this concept unfortunately does not apply. Older individuals have a greater chance developing any form of skin cancer because they have been around longer, and thus, have likely been exposed to the sun for a longer period of time.

Skin Type

Skin pigmentation helps to combat skin cancer, which is why lighter skinned populations, such as Asians or Caucasians, have a higher chance of developing skin cancer over naturally dark-skinned populations. In addition to the lack of skin pigmentation, individuals with freckles, moles, or a prior history of long-term sunburns become more susceptible to this disease.

Physical Features

As noted throughout the differing types of skin cancer, having red or blonde hair in addition to blue or green eyes heightens your risk of possessing skin cancer significantly. Why you ask? Lighter colored hair and eyes produce less natural protection against the sun’s ultraviolet rays, causing more sun damage to the corresponding regions of the body.

Personal History

If you were, at any point, a victim to skin cancer, it’s important to track any changes to your skin in case the cancer were to ever develop again. If you possessed non-melanoma skin cancer within your lifetime, you are at 10 times higher risk for developing it a second time.

Family History

It is crucial to become knowledgeable about your family history of skin cancer. If your parent has or had SCC or BCC, you have a 2 to 3 times higher chance of getting it yourself. Skin types, of course, run within families. Fair skinned families are at a higher risk of possessing skin cancer as compared to dark skinned families.

Sun Exposure

Sun exposure of any kind—indoor or outdoor—will increase your risk of being diagnosed with skin cancer. Additionally, individuals who live in sunny locations such as Arizona, or those who work outside for extensive periods of time, impose a higher risk.

How Can I Lower My Risk of Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer is not worth any risk. It’s important to remember that while some are at a higher risk for developing skin cancer than others, anyone can become a victim at any time. Because of this, preventative measures are relevant and important to everyone. Below are some tips that we suggest to all individuals to help decrease the risk of developing skin cancer.

Still Have Questions or Concerns? Visit us at Arizona Dermatology!

Do you notice any abnormalities on your skin? Are you at a high risk of developing skin cancer? Does this article raise concerns about your health? Don’t wait! Contact Arizona Dermatology immediately to get any and all of your skin cancer questions answered. Schedule your appointment today at any of our seven locations throughout the Valley: Gilbert, Paradise Valley, Phoenix, Show Low, Apache Junction, Coolidge, and Quartzsite.

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