Staying Cautious About Skin Cancer

Despite the very public campaigns against breast and prostate cancer led by some of the more notable cancer research organizations, skin cancer ranks as the most common form of the disease in the U.S. with over two million people a year receiving a skin cancer diagnosis. In fact, each year more cases of skin cancer are reported in the U.S. than the number of colon, lung, prostate, and breast cancers combined.

At Valley View Dermatology, your choice for a dermatologist in Salem, we want every patient to understand the potential risks they face from this deadly and tragic disease.

Fortunately, unlike the majority of other types of the disease, skin cancer doesn’t always present a life-threatening diagnosis. Between 1992 and 2006, approximately 77 percent of treated skin cancer cases involved non-melanoma forms of the disease. Melanoma ranks as the deadliest form of the disease, resulting in about 9,000 deaths each year, according to the American Cancer Society. Conversely, non-melanoma forms of the disease result in 2,000 deaths a year.

The Causes of Skin Cancer

For many people, the sun immediately comes to mind when they think of the causes of skin cancer. While sun exposure still ranks as the primary cause of skin cancer, researchers have started to gain a better understanding that the disease has a cumulative risk factor. To your skin, spending an hour in the sun is the same as taking six, 10-minute walks around the block. The cumulative effect of just spending time outdoors without taking the appropriate precautions significantly raises your risk of developing skin cancer.

However, spending time outdoors isn’t the only factor that increases your cumulative risk of skin cancer. Tattoos, specific chemicals, a number of diseases, and even the light from certain types of energy-efficient light bulbs have all been linked to skin cancer. Studies have even found that individuals who receive an organ transplant have a higher risk (up to 200 times more) of developing skin cancer. The biggest risk factor for skin cancer that doesn’t involve the sun actually comes from spending time indoors under the light of a tanning bed.

Studies have found an unquestionable link between skin cancer and tanning beds in recent years. Despite the growing concern over the use of these beds, tanning services have exploded in popularity, especially among young women in their early 20s. As the use of tanning beds has become more common, researchers have found that the average age of melanoma patients continues to decrease.

What makes tanning booths so dangerous is the artificial ultraviolet light the beds produce. Whether from the sun or a UV lamp, exposure to ultraviolet light has the same effect on the health and color of your skin. However, while most people consider sun exposure dangerous, a false belief that tanning beds are safe may cause users to neglect the use of sunscreen while under the bed’s UV light.

Lowering Your Risk of Skin Cancer

While small, even the UV light used in manicures to help set or harden nail polish can increase your risk of developing skin cancer, which is why the American Academy of Dermatology recommends wearing sunscreen on your hands when receiving a manicure.

Even though summer has come to an end, it’s still important that you take precautions to avoid excessive UV light exposure. The American Cancer Society recommends that you always apply SPF 30 sunscreen to any exposed areas of skin prior to heading outside, and that you wear long-sleeved shirts and pants whenever you expect to be outside for long periods of time. The ACS also recommends the use of a wide brimmed hat to help reduce sun exposure to the face and neck.

Remember, your skin can only take so much UV light exposure over a lifetime, and the more precautions you take, the less risk you’ll have enjoying the outdoors. If you have any questions about what you can do to lower your risk of skin cancer, feel free to ask any of our doctors at Valley View Dermatology, your trusted dermatologist in Salem.