MountainStar Health - March 26, 2019

According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most common of all cancers, accounting for nearly half of all cancers in the United States. More than 3.5 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancer are diagnosed annually.

The American Academy of Dermatology estimates that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, with one in 50 developing into melanoma.

Learning the causes of skin cancer and risk factors you can manage to lower your risk of developing skin cancer is crucial in your health, especially in warm summer months when the sun’s UV rays are at their strongest.

I have a dark complexion, so my risk of developing skin cancer is less.

FALSE. While it’s true that some people are at a higher risk of developing skin cancer than others due to certain risk factors, anyone can develop skin cancer. Having dark skin is no protection.

UV rays are the only cause of skin cancer.

FALSE. While the sun’s UVA and UVB rays are the primary cause of damage to the skin that can lead to skin cancer (UV rays from artificial sources such as tanning bed are also linked), these rays are not the only risk factor.

Those who have undergone an organ transplant or have a weakened immune system due to diseases, receive a significant number of X-ray treatments, or have been diagnosed with specific diseases such as xeroderma pigmentosum or Gorlin’s syndrome (also called basal cell nevus syndrome) have a greater chance of developing some form of skin cancer. Other risk factors include exposure to chemicals such as arsenic, coal or industrial tar, as well as smoking or chewing tobacco.

If it’s cloudy, there is less risk for me from the sun’s rays.

FALSE. The sun’s rays can go through clouds, and for that matter, water as well. If you’re outdoors, protect yourself by wearing sunscreen and protective clothing.

“Apply it and forget it” is bad advice when it comes to sunscreen.

TRUE. Sunscreen works well, but only if you have enough of it on during the time you’re exposed. Apply it about 15 to 20 minutes ahead of exposure to the sun, and then re-apply every two hours or more often if you’ve been swimming, running or sweating.

Tanning protects my skin from skin cancer.

FALSE. Tanning can cause damage to your skin’s DNA, and the darkening is your body’s attempt to prevent further DNA damage. Such changes to your skin may lead to skin cancer. It’s important to take care of your skin – it’s the only one you get!