More than 90% of skin cancers are caused by sun exposure which means that less than 10% of skin cancer derives from sources other than prolonged sun exposure and frequent sunburns. Bottom line: stay out of direct sunlight at frequent intervals and always use sun protection. Common causes of non-melanoma skin cancer include rare, inherited genetic skin disorders such as Gorlin syndrome, a history of fragile skin, use of tanning beds, fair complexion or freckles, precancerous skin conditions such as actinic keratosis and a weakened or compromised immune system. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are 2 common types of non-melanoma skin cancer that usually develop after many years of sun exposure. These usually present on the face, ears, neck, hands and lower arms. Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer because it can spread to other parts of the body. The exact cause of melanoma remains unclear but exposure to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight or tanning beds increases the risk of developing melanoma. Unlike non-melanoma skin cancers, melanoma develops after intense and brief exposure to ultraviolet radiation such as sunburns. 

What is melanoma and how do I prevent skin cancer? Melanoma develops in the cells, known as melanocytes, that produce melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color. Early indicators of melanoma include new moles, lumps, marks, sores or blemishes. A general rule for determining potential skin cancer is to follow what is called the ABCDE guideline. This acronym stands for asymmetry, border, color, diameter and evolving. If moles, birthmarks or other skin marks have changed in any of these areas, it is wise to consult with a dermatologist to assess your skin with a skin cancer screening. 

While skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer, the good news is that it is the most treatable when caught in the early stages. For continuous exposure to the sun, protection of the skin is necessary to prevent skin cancer. This includes an SPF 30 or greater sunscreen applied every 2 hours and wearing of hats and protective clothing. Shading oneself whenever possible will also provide a barrier between your skin and the sun. Knowledge is power when it comes to preventing cancer. Knowing if you pose certain risk factors will help you to keep a lookout for any new changes to the skin. Melanoma risk factors include fair skin, history of sunburns, excessive UV light exposure, living near the equator or at higher elevations, many moles or unusual moles, a family history of melanoma and a weakened immune system. 

For a full skin assessment, contact THE CENTER for Advanced Dermatology at 602-867-7546 or for more information visit our website at WEBSITE.