The risk of cancer runs high throughout the United States but of all the various forms of cancer men and women develop, skin cancer is the most prevalent. While there are certain factors such as fair skin that put certain individuals at a higher risk of developing skin cancer overall, there are no skin types that are excluded from the potential of damage at a cellular level that can lead to cancer. Whether an individual ends up with a diagnosis of Squamous Cell Carcinoma, Basal Cell Carcinoma or Melanoma the potential causes and skin cancer risk factors surrounding the development of these various forms are generally the same. While it’s impossible to guarantee skin cancer can be avoided, clearly understanding the skin cancer risk factors is a first step towards prevention.
While it’s the highlight of the summer season and overall difficult to avoid, excessive sun exposure is often pointed to as one of the leading causes in the development of skin cancer. It is generally accepted amongst professionals in the medical field that exposure to UV rays, no matter how short or long, is a primary factor for those individuals who are diagnosed with skin cancer at any point during their lifetime. As UV rays come in contact with the skin, cells on the surface are damaged at the level of DNA. It’s important to note that damage done to skin cells can lay dormant for a significant amount of time before transforming into cancer. While the sun itself provides the majority of UV rays that skin is exposed to regularly, individuals that spend any amount of time in tanning beds increase their risk of developing skin cancer significantly.
Similarly, the long-lasting effects of sunburns tend to be a risk factor for those who develop skin cancer as well. Even a minor sunburn can play a significant role in cancer development down the line. Men and women with fair skin are far more susceptible to burns and therefore, placed at a higher risk for skin cancer overall.
While aging is a natural part of the human experience, over time, skin becomes prone to developing an increasing number of moles, spots and pigmentation alterations which can ultimately lead to the development of skin cancer. The risk of developing non-melanoma skin cancer rises with age but it should be noted that skin cancer is just as prevalent in younger individuals.
As with so many cancers, skin cancer tends to point back to a genetic predisposition on some level. Many families share common traits when it comes to skin type and it’s not uncommon for families of fair-skinned individuals to collectively be at a higher risk of developing skin cancer at some point in time. While the majority of non-melanoma skin cancers do not seem to be linked to genetic factors, it has been noticed that children of parents who have developed Squamous Cell Carcinoma are more likely to develop this type of cancer as well.
Of all the versions of skin cancer that affect patients, Melanoma is notably the deadliest. While both Squamous Cell Carcinoma and Basal Cell Carcinoma are common and generally curable, a diagnosis of Melanoma comes with a much higher risk of death. The fight against Melanoma must begin early on with quick diagnosis and aggressive treatment plan. However, successfully treating Melanoma doesn’t reduce the risk of developing this type of cancer in the future. A previous diagnosis of Melanoma put patients in a category of individuals that is three-times likelier to experience a repeat diagnosis than the average patient battling skin cancer.
Many medical professionals believe that individuals suffering from pre-existing skin conditions are at a higher risk for developing skin cancer in the future. A few of these conditions include Solar Keratosis and Xeroderma Pigmentosum. Those undergoing treatment for Psoriasis or Eczema also fall into this high-risk group.
Beyond exposure to UV rays, age, genetics, a previous skin cancer diagnosis, and pre-existing skin conditions, other factors that may contribute to the development of skin cancer could include excessive chemical exposure, the presence of Human Papilloma Virus and radiation exposure. Some physicians believe that patients with significant birthmarks or overall weakened immune systems may also be more susceptible to skin cancer development at some point in time.
Recognizing skin cancer risk factors is important but taking the first steps towards preventative care could be a life-changing decision. At the St. Louis Laser Lipo and Vein Center Dr. Wright and his team are dedicated to providing the best and most comprehensive skin care and treatment services around. Contact us today when you’re looking to schedule a skin cancer screening, annual appointment or require treatment options after a skin cancer diagnosis.