Skin Cancer – Is the sun & tanning really to blame?


Skin Cancer the most common form of cancer – Is the sun & tanning really to blame?

Skin cancer is the most common form of human cancer. It is estimated that over 1 million new cases occur annually. The annual rates of all forms of skin cancer are increasing each year.  It has also been estimated that nearly half of all Americans who live to age 65 will develop skin cancer at least once.

The most common warning sign of skin cancer is a change in the appearance of the skin, such as a new growth or a sore that will not heal.

From the least to most dangerous, skin cancer refers to three different conditions:

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer and accounts for more than 90% of all skin cancer in the U.S.  People who have fair skin and are older have higher rates of basal cell carcinoma.  About 20% of these skin cancers, however, occur in areas that are not sun-exposed, such as the chest, back, arms, legs, and scalp. The face, however, remains the most common location for basal cell lesions. A basal cell carcinoma usually begins as a small, dome-shaped bump and is often covered by small, superficial blood vessels. The texture of such a spot is often shiny and translucent, sometimes referred to as “pearly.” Superficial basal cell carcinomas often appear on the chest or back and look more like patches of raw, dry skin. They grow slowly over the course of months or years. Weakening of the immune system, whether by disease or medication, can also promote the risk of developing basal cell carcinoma.

Squamous cell carcinoma of the skin occurs roughly one-quarter as often as basal cell carcinoma. Light-colored skin and a history of sun exposure are even more important in predisposing to this kind of cancer than to basal cell carcinoma. Men are affected more often than women. Patterns of dress and hairstyle may play a role. Women, whose hair generally covers their ears, develop squamous cell carcinomas far less often in this location than do men.  The earliest form of squamous cell carcinoma appear as rough, red bumps on the scalp, face, ears, and backs of the hands. They often appear against a background of mottled, sun-damaged skin. They can be quite sore and tender, out of proportion to their appearance.  Several rather uncommon factors may predispose to squamous cell carcinoma. These include exposure to arsenic, hydrocarbons, heat, or X-rays. Some squamous cell carcinomas arise in scar tissue. Suppression of the immune system by infection or drugs may also promote such growths.

Unlike basal cell carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas can metastasize, or spread to other parts of the body.

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer. It begins in cells in the skin called melanocytes. To understand melanoma, it is helpful to know about melanocytes — what they do, how they grow and what happens when they become cancerous.

Melanocytes produce melanin, the pigment that gives skin its natural color. When skin is exposed to the sun, melanocytes produce more pigment, causing the skin to tan, or darken.  Melanoma occurs when melanocytes (pigment cells) become malignant. Most pigment cells are in the skin; when melanoma starts in the skin, the disease is called cutaneous melanoma.  Melanoma may also occur in the eye, ménages, the digestive tract, lymph nodes, or other areas where melanocytes are found.

Melanoma is one of the most common cancers. The chance of developing it increases with age, but this disease affects people of all ages. It can occur on any skin surface. In men, melanoma is often found on the trunk (the area between the shoulders and the hips) or the head and neck.  In women, it often develops on the lower legs. Melanoma is rare in black people and others with dark skin. When it does develop in dark-skinned people, it tends to occur under the fingernails or toenails, or on the palms or soles.  People who have weak immune systems are at increased risk of developing melanoma.

When melanoma spreads, cancer cells may show up in nearby lymph nodes. Groups of lymph nodes are found throughout the body. Lymph nodes trap bacteria, cancer cells, or other harmful substances that may be in the lymphatic system. If the cancer has reached the lymph nodes, it may mean that cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body such as the liver, lungs, or brain.


Common sense preventive techniques include:


  • avoiding unprotected exposure to the sun during peak radiation times (the hours surrounding noon);
  • wearing broad-brimmed hats and tightly-woven protective clothing while outdoors in the sun;
  • undergoing regular checkups and bringing any suspicious-looking or changing lesions to the attention of the doctor;
  • avoiding the use of tanning beds.  Many people go out of their way to get an artificial tan before they leave for a sunny vacation, because they want to get a “base coat” to prevent sun damage.  But even those who are capable of getting a tan, only get protection to the level of SPF 6, whereas the desired level is an SPF of 30. Those who only freckle get little or no protection at all from attempting to tan; they just increase sun damage
  • using a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 and protection against UVA (long waves of ultraviolet light.) . Sunscreen must be applied liberally and reapplied every two to three hours, especially after swimming or physical activity that promotes perspiration, which can weaken even sunscreens labeled as “waterproof.”


Additionally, increase your intake of beta carotene foods which are excellent cancer preventers, as well as immune system boosters.  Rich sources of beta carotene include: spinach, kale, broccoli, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, pumpkins, parsnips, butternut squash, carrots, beets, all the greens, such as chicory, collard, watercress, dandelion, mustard and radish.  Fruits such as cantaloupes and papayas are also good sources.  Do your best to eat lots of these foods each day.  If it’s difficult for you to eat these foods, or you aren’t sure of the their quality, be sure to supplement with a premium quality beta carotene and other antioxidant supplements. These have been found to also substantially lower your risk of all cancers.


Facebook Twitter Google+ YouTube Vimeo 


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,