We all love soaking up those warm summer rays, but it's equally crucial to be aware of the potential risks associated with excessive sun exposure. One of the most concerning consequences is the development of skin cancer.
In this blog post, we'll dive into the world of skin cancer, shedding light on what it is, its causes, and the importance of early detection. So, let's embark on this educational journey and empower ourselves with knowledge to protect our skin and overall well-being.
What Exactly Is Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer is the abnormal growth of skin cells, typically triggered by damage to the skin's DNA. There are three main types: basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma. BCC and SCC are the most common types and tend to develop on sun-exposed areas, while melanoma, although less common, is more aggressive and can occur on any part of the body, including areas not exposed to the sun.
An Ugly Sun Consequence
The primary cause of skin cancer is ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or artificial sources like tanning beds. Prolonged exposure to UV radiation damages the skin's DNA, leading to genetic mutations that can result in cancerous growth. However, certain risk factors can increase an individual's susceptibility to developing skin cancer, including fair skin, a history of sunburns, family history of skin cancer, weakened immune system, and exposure to certain chemicals.
How Many People Are Affected By Skin Cancer?
Believe it or not, but skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancers diagnosed. They are super common, and right now 2 in 3 Australian (66%) and 1 in 5 Americans (20%) are predicted to be affected by skin cancer before the age of 70.
Melanoma is the big killer, and affects close to 100,000 people each year in America alone, which around 10,000 unfortunately pass away. The earlier the diagnosis the better the outcome, so the key is constantly being aware of your skin and having constant skin checkups with skin clinics and dermatologists.
How To Identify A Skin Cancer
Early detection is super critical for effective treatment and positive outcomes. Understanding the signs and symptoms of skin cancer can help you identify potential concerns. Some common warning signs include changes in the appearance of moles or birthmarks, new growths on the skin, sores that don't heal, or changes in the texture or color of the skin. It's important to regularly examine your skin and consult a healthcare professional if you notice any suspicious changes.
Often a skin cancer can feel itchy, and if in a bad state can ooze and bleed if not identified.
What Are The ABC'S Of Skin Cancer
Asymmetry - the shape
- what to look for? we want to see if there is any difference in the symmetry of the mole that doesn't match. For example, if one side of the mole is growing different to the original patch, you may need to get it checked out.
Boarder - the edges
- what to look for? we want to see what the edges of the mole look like. For example, if they are rugged, faded, notched, uneven or blurred you may need to get it checked out.
Colour - the colour
- what to look for? we want to see if there are different colours on the one mole. For example, if there is brown and black colours in the one area you may need to get it checked out.
Diameter - how big is it
- what to look for? we want to see how large it is. For example, if the mole is around 6mm in diameter, you may need to get it checked out.
Evolving - is it changing
- what to look for? we want to see if it is growing in size. For example, if the mole has changed and become lumpy, or changed characteristics in colour, shape, texture and size you may need to get it checked out.
Prevention is Key
Prevention is the best defense against skin cancer. Here are some key strategies to protect yourself:
- Limit exposure to UV radiation by seeking shade, especially during peak sun hours.
- Wear protective clothing, including wide-brimmed hats and UV-blocking sunglasses.
- Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, generously and regularly.
- Avoid indoor tanning beds, which emit harmful UV radiation.
- Conduct self-examinations of your skin regularly, noting any changes or irregularities.
- Schedule regular skin check-ups with a dermatologist or healthcare professional.
Seeking Professional Help
If you notice any suspicious spots, changes, or concerns with your skin, it's crucial to consult a healthcare professional, or dematologist. They can perform a thorough examination, including a dermatoscopic evaluation, and may conduct a biopsy if necessary. Early detection greatly increases the chances of successful treatment and recovery.
Skin cancer is a serious condition that requires our attention and proactive measures. Understanding its causes, recognizing the warning signs, and adopting preventive practices are key in safeguarding our skin health.
By prioritizing sun protection, regular self-examinations, and seeking professional help when needed, we can minimize the risks and enjoy the sun responsibly. Remember, knowledge is power, and together we can promote a culture of skin wellness. Let's stay sun-safe and embrace a bright future full of joy and healthy skin!