Thursday, June 26, 2008

Protect Yourself from Skin Cancer

By Lauren Brown
Provided by WorldNow

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in U.S. It is important that you understand how to control your exposure to the sun and subsequent risk of skin cancer. Everyone's risk factors are different, but with the following information you can minimize your chances of facing skin cancer.


All tanning is dangerous for your skin. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, a suntan actually comes from the damage that occurs when UV rays reach the epidermal layers of the skin. They cause skin cells, called melanocytes, to produce melanin which is a pigment that darkens the color of the cells. UV rays actually damage the DNA in skin cells and require an enzyme to repair that damage. Damage that is not repaired correctly can lead to mutations and potentially skin cancer.

The Skin Cancer Foundation also points out that tanning booths are not a safer alternative to natural tanning; they also emit harmful UV radiation. If you are looking for safe tanning alternatives look into sunless tanning sprays, lotions, and makeup.


There are many factors that determine how much UV radiation you are exposed to: geography, altitude, time of year, time of day, weather conditions, and reflection. Higher altitudes and locales closer to the equator get more UV exposure and the sun's angle to the earth is more direct during summer months. Peak UV exposure is between 10 am to 4 pm, so try to remain indoors during this time of day.

Also keep in mind that you can get sunburned on a cloudy day; UV rays still come through the ozone layer, despite the absence of sunshine. They are also reflected from sand, water and snow, so always use sunscreen and wear protective clothing.

One tool to help you control your exposure to UV radiation is the UVI index. This rating scale forecasts the amount of damaging UV rays that will hit the earth's surface by noon, when the sun is at its peak. You can track this on the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) website.

The Skin Cancer Foundation has paired up with Aveeno and Rite Aid to present a Road to Healthy Skin Tour the East Coast. They will provide free skin cancer screenings from May through October. Check out their site to see when they'll be in your neck of the woods:


People with light skin and fair hair, a personal or family history of skin cancer, skin that burns easily, and particular types of moles, should be extremely vigilant about protecting their skin. Severe sunburns as a child increase your risk as well as increased exposure over the years.

Dermatologists divide skin into six different types going from fairest to darkest or most sensitive to least sensitive to the sun. People with naturally darker (not tanned) skin are less sensitive to the sun. It is still important for people with darker skin to use sunscreen because they are not immune to the dangers of the sun and are susceptible to malignancies.

Age and health also play a role in determining the risk of skin cancer. Generally those younger than five or older than 50, and people with compromised immune systems, are at greater risk to UV damage.

Also be aware that certain oral and topical medicines such as antibiotics, birth control pills, and benzoyl peroxide products, and even some make-ups, make eyes and skin more sensitive to UV radiation. Check with your doctor before exposing yourself to the sun while using these medications and products.


Skin cancer may be the most common form of cancer in the U.S ., but it is also one of the most treatable if it is detected early.

The two most common forms of cancer are basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas. Basal cell carcinomas occur when there are malignancies in the deepest layer of the epidermis. These malignancies most often occur on exposed skin on the face, neck, ears, scalp, shoulders and back. An open sore, reddish patch, shiny bump, pink growth, or scar-like area are all warning signs of basal cell carcinomas. Because these symptoms could be another non-cancerous skin condition it is important that you go to a doctor to be certain.

Squamous cell carcinoma occurs on the uppermost layer of the skin. With regard to both basal and squamous cell Carcinomas, most can be fully treated if caught early and will not metastasize. However, a small percentage of carcinomas that do not respond well to treatment or go undetected can become more serious.

Those same melanocytes, skin cells with pigment which give you that tan that so many love, are also the site of the most dangerous form of skin cancer: Melanoma. Most melanomas are black or brown in color. Melanoma can usually be 100% cured if treated early. It is not the most common form of skin cancer, but it is the most fatal.

Melanoma usually begins as a mole. Watch for moles that are asymmetrical, the borders are uneven, the color is not uniform, and the size of the mole is larger than a pencil eraser. The more moles that you have the greater your risk increases. The easiest and safest way to check your skin or any suspicious moles is to go to a dermatologist. They can take pictures and track any suspicious moles in order to see change over time.

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