No matter how you look at it skin cancer is an epidemic in America. According to statistics, one person dies of melanoma every hour of every day. Those numbers are staggering. If your life or the life of someone you love has not already been touched by skin cancer, then it is quite likely that this will change. That is a frightening thing to consider. However, when you understand basic skin cancer facts you can begin to recognize the problem and find ways to protect yourself and those you love. Here are five skin cancer facts that you probably don’t already know. Reading about them may help you understand your risk factors and find ways to avoid a melanoma diagnosis.
1. One Out of Five People Will Develop Skin Cancer
This shocking statistic demonstrates how prevalent skin cancer is. Clearly, we aren’t doing enough to educate the public and to convince people to protect themselves from this highly preventable disease. Skin cancer does not have to be an inevitability. As long as you have skin cancer facts and are vigilant about protecting yourself you do not have to develop melanoma and skin cancer in other forms.
2. Ultraviolet Radiation Is a Human Carcinogen
Many people are familiar with the term “carcinogen” but aren’t sure of its precise meaning. Briefly, a carcinogen is a substance that is known to cause cancer. This means that a substance might be a carcinogen if it causes a change in DNA. It’s important to keep in mind that exposure to any carcinogen does not necessarily guarantee a cancer diagnosis somewhere down the line. Other risk factors may make an individual more or less susceptible to melanoma and skin cancer. Accordingly, it’s possible for you to be exposed to a carcinogen without it ever causing cancer.
That said, it is vital to understand that a clear link has been established between ultraviolet radiation and skin cancer. The link is so pronounced that several reputable scientific organizations like the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the U.S. National Toxicology Program have listed ultraviolet radiation as a known human carcinogen. Considering how exposure to UV radiation increases your chances of developing melanoma or another form of skin cancer it is in your best interests to protect yourself from this exposure as much as possible.
3. White Males Over 50 Need to Visit a Dermatologist
While it is possible for absolutely anyone to develop the symptoms of melanoma, certain segments of the population need to be particularly vigilant about keeping up with regular visits to the dermatologist. White men over 50 years of age seem to be particularly vulnerable to this form of skin cancer. Most of these occurrences are found on the back or the scalp of the individual, places that are hard for people to check themselves. That’s why regular dermatologist visits are imperative.
Even if you don’t fit into this category, you may be at increased risk if you have a family history of melanoma, are fair skinned and have been severely sunburned at least once. Anyone exhibiting these and other well-known risk factors for melanoma may benefit from regular visits to the dermatologist.
4. Tanning May Be More Likely to Cause Cancer Than Smoking
For decades a great deal of attention has been focused on the dangers of smoking. This deadly habit has been linked to lung cancer and a host of other health issues. However, research suggests that more people who go tanning will be diagnosed with skin cancer than smokers will be diagnosed with lung cancer. At first glance, it’s a statistic that’s difficult to believe. The numbers show that more people will be diagnosed with some form of skin cancer than will be diagnosed with lung, breast, colon and prostate cancer combined.
In fact, people who use indoor tanning devices increase their risk of basal cell carcinoma by about 29 percent. The numbers for squamous cell carcinoma are even more sobering at 67 percent. Indoor tanning just once increases a person’s risk for melanoma by 20 percent. If that same person tans several times in the same year, their chances of developing skin cancer will increase two percent each time. Clearly, tanning is more threatening to your health and life than almost any other habit.
5. Even People With Darker Skin Can Get Skin Cancer
Every year people with darker complexions are stunned by a skin cancer diagnosis. African Americans and Asian Indians are more likely to be afflicted with squamous cell carcinoma while basal cell carcinoma is more prevalent in Hispanics, Japanese and Chinese. Melanoma is dangerous for these people as well, particularly since there is a tendency toward late-stage diagnosis. Accordingly, this is a far more deadly disease for African Americans and other people with darker complexions. Simply put, they don’t understand that they are at risk so they don’t check themselves or go to the dermatologist as often. The results are often tragic. Don’t fall for the commonly held fallacy that dark-skinned people don’t get skin cancer. These skin cancer facts demonstrate that this just isn’t true.
How to Protect Yourself
Protecting yourself from melanoma and skin cancer requires vigilance and a dedication to a healthy lifestyle. This means avoiding tanning in all of its forms whether you are at the beach, working in the yard or just enjoying a day outdoors. It also means never using tanning booths, as these can significantly increase your risk factors for developing melanoma and skin cancer in its various forms. Make sunscreen a part of your daily ritual and look for other ways to protect yourself from the sun such as by seeking shade and wearing a wide-brimmed hat.
Above all, make regular visits to your dermatologist a priority. Allowing your doctor to examine your skin on an ongoing basis makes early detection much more likely. Early detection is often the key to survival. You owe it to yourself and your family to check the condition of your skin often and to report any changes to your dermatologist.