Skin cancer is the abnormal growth of skin cells, and most often develops on skin exposed to the sun, according to the Mayo Clinic.
However, skin cancer may also occur on areas of the skin not ordinarily exposed to sunlight.
The three major types of skin cancer are: basel cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, which is the most serious of skin cancer.
Unfortunately, all types of skin cancer are on the rise, but most types can be prevented by limiting or avoiding exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation and by paying attention to suspicious changes in your skin.
Early detection can usually be lifesaving with these types of cancer.
It’s important to avoid sunburn since among other things, sunburn can lead to melanoma.
Intense sun exposure that results in sunburn increases the risk of complications and related skin diseases. These include dry, wrinkled skin; liver spots; actinic keratoses; and skin cancer.
Sunburn can be prevented by protecting your skin whenever you are outdoors, even on cloudy days.
Signs of sunburn include:
• Pinkness or redness
• Skin that feels warm or hot to the touch
• Pain or tenderness
• Small fluid-filled blisters, which may break, and
• Headache, fever and fatigue if sunburn covers a large area.
Any part of your body can burn, including earlobes, scalp and lips. Eyes are extremely sensitive to the sun’s ultraviolet light and can also burn.
Sometimes when sunburn occurs it is necessary to see a doctor, although this won’t keep the sunburn from possibly turning to cancer. You should see a doctor if the sunburn is blistering and covers a large portion of your body; is accompanied by a high fever, extreme pain, confusion, nausea or chills; if it doesn’t respond to at-home care within a few days.
Symptoms of skin cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic:
Basal cell carcinoma. This is the most common skin cancer. It’s also the most easy to treat and the least likely to spread. It usually appears as either a pearly or waxy bump on your face, ears or neck; or a flat, flesh-colored or brown scar-like lesion on your chest or back.
Squamous cell carcinoma. This type of cancer is easily treated if detected early, but it is slightly more apt to spread than is basal cell carcinoma. Most often, squamous cell carcinoma appears as one of the following: a firm, red nodule on your face, lips, ears, neck, hands or arms; or a flat lesion with a scaly, crusted surface on your face, ears, neck, hands or arms.
Melanoma. This is the most serious form of skin cancer and the one that is responsible for most skin cancer deaths. It can develop anywhere on the body, in otherwise normal skin or in an existing mole that turns malignant. Melanoma most often appears on the trunk, head or neck of affected men. In women, this type of cancer most often develops on the arms or legs.
According to the Mayo Clinic, warning signs of melanoma include: a large brownish spot with darker speckles located anywhere on your body; a simple mole located anywhere on your body that changes in color, size or feel or that bleeds; a small lesion with an irregular border and red, white, blue or blue-black spots on your trunk or limbs; shiny, firm, dome-shaped bumps located anywhere on your body; or dark lesions on your palms, soles, fingertips and toes, or on mucous membranes lining your mouth, nose, vagina and anus.
Risk factors for skin cancer include:
Fair skin. Having less pigment in your skin provides less protection from damaging UV radiation. If you have blond or red hair, light colored eyes, and you freckle or sunburn easily, you’re much more likely to develop skin cancer than someone with darker features.
A history of sunburns. Every time you get sunburned, you damage your skin cells and increase your chances of developing skin cancer. After a sunburn, the body works to repair the damage. Having multiple blistering sunburns as a child or teenager increases your risk of developing skin cancer as an adult. Sunburns in adulthood also are a risk factor.
Excessive sun exposure: Anyone who spends considerable time in the sun may develop skin cancer, especially if your skin isn’t protected by sunscreen or clothing. Tanning also puts you at risk.
Sunny or high-altitude climates. People who live in these areas, or truck drivers who travel through them often, are exposed to more sunlight. Living at higher elevations, where the sunlight is strongest, also exposes you to more radiation.
Moles. People who have many moles are at increased risk of skin cancer.
A family history of skin cancer. If one of your parents or a sibling has had skin cancer, you may be at increased risk of the disease.
A personal history of skin cancer. If you developed skin cancer once, you’re at risk of developing it again.
A weakened immune system. People with weakened immune systems are at greater risk of developing skin cancer. This includes people living with HIV/AIDS or leukemia and those taking immunosuppressant drugs after an organ transplant.
Fragile skin. Skin that has been burned, injured or weakened by treatments for other skin conditions is more susceptible to sun damage and skin cancer.
Exposure to environmental hazards. Exposure to environmental chemicals, including some herbicides, increases your risk of skin cancer.
Age. The risk of developing skin cancer increased with age, primarily because many skin cancers develop slowly. The damage that occurs during childhood or adolescence may not become apparent until middle age. It’s not limited to older people, however.
If you notice any suspicious change in your skin, consult your doctor right away. As with most cancers, early detection increases the chances of successful treatment. Don’t wait for the area to start hurting — skin cancer seldom causes pain.
To prevent skin cancer: avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.; wear sunscreen year-round; wear protective clothing; avoid tanning beds and tan-accelerating agents; be aware of sun-sensitizing medications; check your skin regularly and report changes to your doctor; and have regular yearly skin exams if you are over 40 years of age, more often if you’re at high risk of developing skin cancer.
Barb Kampbell of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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