While most skin cancers start on skin frequently exposed to the sun, it’s not always the case and protected areas may develop cancer as well. The three main types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.
Basal cell carcinoma usually develops on skin regularly exposed to sunlight, such as the face and neck. Typically, this type of cancer appears as a bump that looks waxy, but it may also appear as a flat lesion that resembles a scar, either flesh-colored or dark brown.
Squamous cell carcinoma also appears on sun-exposed flesh, including hands and ears. People with darker skin have an increased risk of squamous cell carcinoma on other parts of the body not regularly exposed to the sun. Physical signs of squamous cell cancer appear as firm red nodules or flat and scaly lesions.
Melanoma may develop anywhere on the body, on both normal skin and on pre-existing moles. On men, melanoma commonly appears on the face and abdomen, while women most often see growths on their lower legs. Melanoma usually appears as large, uneven dark spots. Moles that are cancerous typically change in color and size. Irregular lesions with unusual color, such as red, white, or blue-black or new dark lesions in unusual places may also indicate melanoma.
Exposure to the harmful ultraviolet portion of sunlight is the most significant preventable cause of skin cancer. Mutations occur within the DNA of skin cells, causing out of control growth resulting in a cancerous mass. Yet, sunlight doesn’t account for all incidents of skin cancer. Other factors, such as genetics, exposure to carcinogens, and immune system problems may contribute as well.
Yes. Risk increases for those with fair skin. Light-colored skin contains low levels of melanin, the substance that gives color to skin. It’s also important in protecting the body from UV light. Those with blond or red hair, fair skin, light-colored eyes, and those who freckle and sunburn easily, are much more likely to get skin cancer.
People who have had many sunburns or a high level of exposure to the sun have a greater cancer risk. Those living in warm climates and high altitudes also have increased risk due to more outdoor living and higher radiation levels.
There are many more risk factors for skin cancer. If you’re in doubt about a lesion or mole, contact Dr. Brown as soon as possible.
Dr. Brown accepts most insurances. Please contact the office for further insurance information.
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