You have heard it before and you will hear it again and again throughout your life- using sunscreen can save your life. The incidences of all types of skin cancers are on the rise, including the most deadly form, melanoma. Unlike many other cancers, skin cancer is highly preventable. You cannot control some risk factors such as the darkness of your skin, but by using sunscreen and staying out of the sun during the riskiest times of the day, you can cut your chances of getting skin cancer tremendously. So, if you get nothing else out of this article, just remember that sunscreen is incredibly important!
There are three main types of skin cancer and each has a different appearance and outcome. Basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas tend to be less malignant and more easily treatable than the third type, melanoma. Fortunately, the former two are also the most common forms of skin cancer.
Basal cell carcinomas are the most common form of skin cancer. Almost a million people in the United States alone will receive a diagnosis of basal cell carcinoma just this year. If you are fair skinned you are more likely to get a basal cell carcinoma than someone with more skin pigmentation. Genetics also seems to play a role, which makes it especially important to protect yourself against the sun if you have a family history of skin cancer. Though this form of cancer is fairly prevalent among the population, it is normally easily treated. You will still want to prevent basal cell carcinoma however, because this type of cancer can cause disfiguration when it is present on the facial area.
Squamous cell carcinoma is the next most common form of skin cancer, comprising about twenty percent of all cases. Though it is a form of skin cancer and caused by exposure to UV rays, it can be found in many areas of the body including places that are never exposed to the sun, such as the lungs. When found, the best course of action is surgery to remove the affected area. Like basal cell carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas are usually readily treatable and have high survival rates.
Though most cases of skin cancer are basal cell or squamous cell carcinomas, most people think of melanoma when they think of skin cancer. Melanoma gets a lot of press because it is the scariest of the three types of skin cancer and the most likely to cause death. Though it is good to catch all cancers early, it is especially important with melanoma because the chances of survival decrease tremendously the longer the cancer is allowed to spread. About 150,000 Americans are diagnosed with melanoma each year and nearly a third of these people will succumb to the disease. The best way to deal with the disease is prevention, with the use of sunscreen and avoiding the sun being the most effective means. Being aware of changes in your skin and performing frequent skin checks is also extremely important because it might let you catch this cancer in its early, treatable stages.
Any changes in existing moles or new, strange looking spots on your skin should always raise alarms and make you consider seeing a doctor. And remember, prevention is always best when it comes to skin cancer.
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