8 Facts About Skin Cancer That Might Shock You

Skin cancer is a type of cancer that's characterized by the abnormal growth of skin cells. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States that affects more than 3 million Americans each year.

There are three major types of skin cancer - melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. While basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma affect sun-exposed areas of the body, melanoma can develop anywhere on the body.

Unfortunately, skin cancer can affect anybody, regardless of age, sex, and skin color. However, knowing some facts about this type of cancer will help you understand it better, spot the early signs, and know your risks. Here are some shocking things about skin cancer you might not know:

1. Moles are not the only sign of skin cancer

Growing and irregular moles are the hallmarks of skin cancer. Use "ABCDE rule" to identify melanomas:

  • Asymmetry - Half of the mole doesn't match the other half.
  • Border - The edges of the mole are irregular.
  • Color - The color of the mole is not the same all over and might include shades of black or brown, sometimes with patches of white, pink, blue, or red.
  • Diameter - The mole is larger than a pencil eraser.
  • Evolving - The mole is changing in shape, size, or color.

The problem is that melanoma can also manifest itself with pimples or sores that don't heal. They might bleed, hurt, ooze, or itch. These same signs may also indicate basal or squamous cell skin cancers.

2. Skin cancer is common among young people

Research published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings has shown that melanoma, an aggressive type of skin cancer, has increased eightfold for women under 40 and fourfold among young men since 1970. Scientists assume that this is due to tanning and better detection. Moreover, melanoma in children, although still rare, increased about 2 percent per year, among children from newborns to age 12.

3. Darker skin is not protected from skin cancer

Those who have darker skin might be less prone to skin cancer, however, when they have it, it's often more advanced by the time it's detected and thus harder to treat. The Skin Cancer Foundation reports five-year melanoma survival rate for blacks is 69 percent, compared to 93 percent for whites.

That's because people with darker skin tend to underestimate their skin cancer risk. Monthly self-examinations along with regular skin checkups by your dermatologist will help with early detection.

4. Daily consumption of orange juice can raise your risk of skin cancer

It turns out that people who consume citruses, like grapefruit or orange juice at least once a day, have a 36 percent higher risk for skin cancer compared to those who consume citrus fewer than two times a week.

Citrus fruits contain compounds that make the human skin more photosensitive. The good news is that there is no need to limit your consumption. Simply reduce your sun exposure, especially in the few hours after consuming citrus.

5. You can get skin cancer in the eyes

Eye melanoma is characterized by a dark spot inside the eye. There are nearly 2,000 new cases of eye melanoma diagnosed each year in the U.S. The eyelid area can also be affected by other types of skin cancer like squamous cell and basal cell carcinoma and these often go undetected.

6. Immune-suppressing drugs can increase your skin cancer risk, too

If your immune system is weak, your skin cancer risk rises. The problem is that treatment for autoimmune diseases includes immune-suppressing medications and that's a concern for the 50 million Americans with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, and other disorders that cause the immune system to attack healthy tissues and organs.

In fact, TNF inhibitors used to treat rheumatoid arthritis increase the risk of melanoma by 50 percent. Those who took immune-suppressing drugs called thiopurines to control IBS were more likely to develop non-melanoma skin cancer in two studies. Skin cancer can be successfully treated if detected early. Therefore it's essential to do monthly checkups and visit your derm every six months. Early detection and treatment of skin cancer are essential for preventing cancer progression.

7. There is no good type of skin cancer

Melanoma is the deadliest type of skin cancer, that's why some people mistakenly suggest that the other types of skin cancer (squamous cell or basal cell carcinoma) are "good types". There is no good type of skin cancer. If left ignored, squamous cell carcinoma can enlarge and spread to other body areas, while basal cell carcinomas can also spread if not treated in time.

8. Skin cancer can develop where the sun doesn't shine

Skin cancer can develop in places that are never exposed to the sun, like inside the vagina, underside of the penis, and in the crease of the buttocks. Moreover, melanoma can develop between the toes, which is why dermatologists check those areas during skin cancer checkups, too. 

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Thursday, 25 July 2024