Risk Factors & Causes of Skin Cancer

Most people think of tans as a sign of good health. In reality, a tan is a sign that the skin has been damaged by the sun’s UV radiation rays. The increased pigment is caused by melanin, which is the skin’s way of trying to protect itself from further damage.

Protect yourself against the damage caused by exposure to the sun and be vigilant of risk factors that can exacerbate, accelerate or increase your likelihood of developing skin cancer. Your skin type may make you increasingly susceptible to burns or you may tan very easily. Either way, know the causes of skin cancer and protect against it with appropriate recommended measures.

Skin Type and Sun Damage

A person’s propensity to tan or burn is determined by their skin type. Type I skin rarely tans and almost always burns. Individuals with Type II skin may tan minimally but are still susceptible to sunburns. Type III skin may burn moderately but can reach a light tan. Individuals with Type IV skin are able to obtain a moderate tan and only burn minimally. A person with Type V skin can achieve a deep, dark tan and rarely burns. A person with Type VI skin already has a lot of natural melanin and rarely burns. Individuals with Types I and II skin are at the highest risk for sun damage and skin cancer; however, any skin type can be damaged by too much UV exposure.

Factors That Increase Skin Cancer Risk

Individuals with certain lifestyle and genetic risk factors are more likely to develop skin cancer. The primary risk factor for skin cancer is a history of sunburns and excessive UV exposure through indoor or outdoor tanning. Excessive UV exposure is a primary cause of squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common skin cancer. UV radiation is strongest in sunny climates and higher altitudes. People with fair skin, hair, and eyes are more likely to develop skin cancer.

A personal or family history of skin cancer, precancerous skin lesions, or abnormal moles also increases a person’s risk of developing skin cancer. Immunosuppressant drugs and radiation treatments can also make the skin more sensitive to the sun’s UV rays. Everyone should make sure to perform self-exams regularly and bring any irregular, changing, or non-healing lesions to the attention of a skin cancer expert at the Calabasas Dermatology Center.

Causes of Skin Cancer

The most common cause of skin cancer is the existence of mutations in skin cell DNA that cause overgrowth in the cells and the formation of cancer cells. Ultraviolet radiation, found in natural sun exposure and at tanning salons, is the most common cause of damage to skin cells that can lead to skin cancer. The medical community continues to investigate the causes of skin cancer in those areas of the body not directly exposed to ultraviolet radiation. HPV exposure has been linked to skin cancer on non-sun exposed areas.

The above is a general overview of some basic information on skin cancer symptoms and causes; it is imperative to see your dermatologist for regular skin check-ups. Our skin cancer specialists at the Calabasas Dermatology Center, located in Los Angeles, are happy to evaluate any lesion that may be concerning you.

Preventing Skin Cancer

The best way to prevent skin cancer is to protect your skin from the sun. Wear sunblock with an SPF of at least 15 every single day. Make it SPF 30 if you are going to be outside for more than a half hour, and re-apply the sunblock every one to two hours (sunscreen is labeled as water-resistant for a maximum of 80 minutes). Sunscreen should always contain zinc oxide. Wear wide-brimmed hats when you are outside.

Try to stay out of direct sunlight between 10 am and 4 pm when it is at its peak strength. It can also be beneficial to wear clothing with UPF rating. Protecting your skin and examining it regularly will help to prevent skin cancer from damaging your health and negatively impacting your life. Be sure to make an annual visit to get your skin checked by our skin care experts at the Calabasas Dermatology Center.

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