There are more than one million cases of skin cancer diagnosed each year in the United States, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. In fact, it is one of the most common kinds of skin cancer in the US. One in five people will develop it in their lifetime. The most likely place to develop skin cancer is the face, head and neck, because they are constantly exposed to sunlight. Removing lesions from skin cancer is the most common type of reconstructive surgery. Out of the 4.9 million reconstructive surgeries done, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, over 3.2 million of them were skin cancer removals.
Types of Skin Cancer
- Basal cell carcinoma happens in the basal cells, which are found in the base of the outer layer or skin. This is most common and usually the simplest to treat.
- Squamous cell carcinoma is the next most common type of skin cancer. When allowed to progress squamous cell carcinoma can destroy much of the tissue surrounding the tumor and can be disfiguring. Squamous cell carcinoma is curable with early detection and proper treatment.
- Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. It forms in the skin cells that create pigment. Out of 10, 850 deaths from skin cancer, almost 74 percent are from melanoma. Melanoma can be sometimes be successfully treated if it is caught early and dealt with aggressively.
Risks and Prevention
Many cases of non-melanoma skin cancer might be prevented with proper protection from the sun. Excessive exposure can lead to skin cancer. Frequent sunburns or tans in childhood can more than double the risk. Lighter skinned people are more likely to develop skin cancer than darker skinned people, but that does not mean that darker skinned people are immune; it simply means that they can be exposed longer before skin damage takes place.
Regardless of skin color, everyone should protect their skin. The American Cancer Foundation suggests that people:
- Stay in the shade, in particular between 10 am and 4 pm.
- Avoid sunburns, tanning and tanning booths.
- Use a sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 15 daily.
- Apply two tablespoons total of sunscreen to all exposed areas 30 minutes before going outside. Every two hours, be sure to reapply, and more often after swimming or sweating heavily.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts, wide brimmed hats, and sunglasses. Sunglasses should block 99-100 percent of UVA and UVB radiation; check the label.
- Keep babies, especially newborns, out of the sun. Sunscreen can be used on infants over 6 months.
- Examine your skin all over every month.
- See your doctor once a year for a skin exam.