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MAIN Arrow to HealthHealth Arrow to DiseaseDiseases Arrow to CancerCancer Arrow to Skin CancerSkin Cancer

diagram showing skin cancer spread via lymph and blood vessels
Early detection of skin cancer is vital to
stop its spread to other areas of the body.

Overexposure to the sun is the main culprit in the rise of skin cancer, which in the U.S. is the most common type of cancer.

Most non-melanoma skin cancer patients are age 50 or older, but a growing number of younger people are also being diagnosed with the disease.

As a result, the alarm has been raised within the medical community for more and better education on the harmful effects of too much sunlight and ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which can be easily avoided with a few protective measures before heading out into the sun.

Minimizing risk of skin cancer

During the summer months, especially, exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays is at its peak when at the beach swimming and sunbathing unprotected can cause real damage to skin that can lead to wrinkles, skin spots, and skin cancer. The current craze for visiting indoor tanning salons has also contributed to the rise in skin cancer cases, say experts.

However, you can easily minimize risk by following these helpful tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

• Stay out of the sun when it is strongest (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.)
• Use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher
• Wear protective clothing
• Wear wraparound sunglasses that provide 100 percent UV ray protection
• Avoid sunlamps and tanning beds

While overexposure to UV rays can more easily result in skin cancer for those who work outdoors, other factors may heighten risk. These include a lighter natural skin color that freckles or burns easily, a history of sunburns (especially in childhood) or a family history of skin cancer.

Skin cancer types

melanoma photos
Melanoma pictures

The three major types of skin cancer are:

  • basal cell carcinoma

  • squamous cell carcinoma

  • melanoma

Of the three types, melanoma is the most serious, and if left untreated can affect deep layers of the skin and eventually spread to other parts of the body.

In contrast, basal cell and squamous carcinoma are relatively slower growing and more easily treatable if found early.

Basal cell carcinoma accounts for about 90% of skin cancer cases, and usually appears as a lesion on the chest or back, or as a shiny bump on the face, ears or neck.

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common skin cancer and is somewhat more likely to spread if not detected early. This type can either appear as a bright red bump, or as a flat lesion on the face, neck, hands or arms.

Treating skin cancer

Treatment options for skin cancer may vary depending on the type and stage of the disease when diagnosed, the location on the body, and the patient's overall health.

Generally, all that is needed in early stage skin cancer is a simple excision, or cutting away of the lesion which is then watched regularly and examined for likely recurrence.

More aggressive techniques in the later stages may include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, cryosurgery, (the technique of using extreme cold to treat tumors) laser surgery, or Mohs micrographic surgery, in which individual layers of skin are removed until no cancer cells are evident.

also see -> Good advice for runners - use sunscreen

More about skin cancer around the Web:

On the Web, find out more about skin cancer at top sites offering expert advice on risk factors, tips & advice on skin cancer prevention, along with more details on treatment options, the latest research information and online patient support ....

Introduction to Skin Cancer - Good, basic information on causes, risk factors, types of skin cancer & treatment options, advice on precautions to take to decrease risk, related link to UV forecasts in 30 major U.S. cities, glossary, resources.

The Skin Cancer Foundation - Information on melanomas, basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, AK's and related precancers, prevention advice & skin nutrition tips.


This information is intended as reference and not as medical advice.
All treatment decisions should be made by medical professionals.

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