Sunshine is actually good for us! No, seriously! It provides the essential vitamin Dthat our bodies need to support healthy bones and teeth and it may also reduce your risk for multiple sclerosis and Type 1 diabetes. Of course, like so many other things in life, moderation is the key and a daily dose of sunlight (15 – 20 minutes) usually furnishes us enough vitamin D to get the job done. Good for our insides, yes, but not so good for our outsides. Unfortunately for our skin, just about all of us have spent quite a bit more than 20 minutes soaking up rays during a vacation, a day at the beach, or even just working in the yard. The damage from all those hours in the sun adds up over the years, and that’s where the problems can start.
What Are The Most Common Types Of Skin Cancer?
If you’ve had a sunburn, you know just how painful they can be, and that pain is telling you something: your skin has been injured. Though the precise cause of skin cancer is not known, doctors do know that sunlight exposure triggers a genetic malfunction in skin cells that results in previously controlled cancer cells beginning to multiply. In turn, those cells usually evolve into one of these three types of skin cancer:
Basal cell – the most common form of skin cancer, characterized by pink, waxy bumps that may bleed if injured. You may also see some tiny blood vessels and a depression in the center of the bump. It rarely spreads to any other organ in the body, but can damage nearby nerves, bones, and muscle tissue if not treated.
Squamous cell – also very common, and symptoms include dry, scaly, red patches of skin on the scalp, arms, neck, ears, and face that don’t seem to heal. Like basal cell, it usually doesn’t spread, but it is more likely than basal cell to affect surrounding tissue.
Melanoma – less common than basal or squamous cell, but far more dangerous, accounting for 77% of skin cancer-related deaths in the U.S. Usually characterized by a dark brown or black lesion with an irregular border, inconsistent coloring, and odd shapes. It’s so dangerous because it is not uncommon for melanoma to quickly spread to other parts of the body.
It’s a good rule of thumb to get your entire body checked at least once a year by the trained eye of a dermatologist, but in the meantime feel free to ask your physician to have a look at any suspicious spots you see. What you think is just a dry patch may actually be skin cancer, and the earlier you catch and treat it, the better.