Skin cancer 101: Signs, Prevention, and Causes

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, even more common than breast cancer. According to some research, one in five people in America develop skin cancer.

The problem is that bad habits are mostly the cause of skin cancer. We can avoid many bad habits, once we identify them.

If you know the signals and early signs of skin cancer, you can react on time and get immediate help. Being aware of the problem is the best way to prevent skin cancer.

Therefore, let’s take a look at what skin cancer is, what are the causes, what are the types of skin cancer, and how to prevent and protect yourself.

What is skin cancer?

The simple definition of skin cancer is “uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells”. This happens when unrepaired DNA damages skin cells, and that triggers mutations or genetic defects. The end result is your skin cells multiply rapidly. As they multiply, they form a mass known as a tumor.

There are three types of skin cancer. They are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. The first two are malignant, but they do not spread to other parts of the body. However, they still require treatment.

Melanoma is severe, and it can spread to other parts of the body, becoming fatal if not treated early.

Basal cell carcinoma

This skin cancer usually occurs on sun-exposed areas. That is usually the face and the neck. The basal cell carcinoma appears as a waxy bump and looks like a pimple at first.

The carcinoma might have flat-flesh color or brown-like scar color. Basal cell carcinoma bleeds easily.

Squamous cell carcinoma

Same as the first type, this type occurs on sun-exposed areas. However, it affects different parts. This time, the hands, face, and ears are affected.

People with darker skin are more prone and at higher risk. This type of cancer appears as a firm red lump and has a wart-like growth. Squamous cell carcinoma appears as an open sore.

Melanoma

Unlike the first two, melanoma can appear anywhere on your body. The most common spot, however, is the face or the torso for men, and lower legs for women.

Melanoma affects all people equally, regardless of skin color. This type of cancer appears as a large brownish spot with darker speckles, a small lesion with an irregular border that appears red, blue, white, or blue-black, a sore that doesn’t heal, and dark lesions on your palm soles, fingertips, toes, mouth, vagina, and/or anus.

Warning signs of skin cancer

There are seven early signs of skin cancer. If you notice them on time, you can easily get treatment.

Here are the symptoms:

  • Irregular mole. If it looks different than any other moles on your body, check with your doctor
  • Vertical dark streak on nails. As mentioned, skin cancer can appear anywhere, even under fingers and toenails
  • Vision problems occur when melanoma affects the eye
  • A pimple that won’t go away, or a sore that won’t heal, or a scab that keeps recurring
  • Mole on the sole of your foot. Many people have benign spots on the sole of their feet. However, they should check for safety
  • Experiencing change after removing a mole. If you notice pigmentation, seek medical help
  • Black spots inside your cheek

Causes for Skin Cancer

As mentioned at the beginning, many of the causes for skin cancer are actually bad habits. If you change your lifestyle, you can vastly reduce the risk of skin cancer.

Here are some of the leading causes of skin cancer.

  • Exposure to sunlight, especially UV light
  • Use of tanning beds that emit UV rays to the skin
  • Exposure to unusually high levels of radiation
  • Exposure to chemicals such as arsenic and hydrocarbons
  • Low immune system. Your immune system protects you from infections and cancer, but when your system is weakened, it cannot perform properly.

Some people are at higher risk of developing skin cancer. Those include people with fair skin that sunburn easily, people with light blond or red hair, people with genetic disorders that deplete the skin pigment, people born with numerous moles.

If you notice any of the abnormalities and early signs, check with your doctor immediately.

How to prevent skin cancer

A simple change to your lifestyle can go a long way in preventing skin cancer.

The first advice is to limit your exposure to UV light. But here are other prevention tips.

  • Wear sunglasses that block UV rays
  • Consume antioxidant rich foods that protect your skin
  • Apply sunscreen when going out on the sun
  • Protect your skin with clothing
  • Seek shades on warm and hot days
  • Avoid using tanning beds
  • Avoid using sunlamps
  • Wear a hat

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