5 Risk Factors for Skin Cancer You Need to KnowArticle posted in: Lifestyle
When the weather turns hot, we all enjoy spending time outdoors soaking up the sun. Even more important, our bodies need sunshine to make vitamin D—research has linked deficiency in this key nutrient to excess weight gain. Too much exposure to the sun, however, can permanently damage your skin and leave you vulnerable to skin cancer. That doesn’t mean that you need to avoid the sun altogether, but you should be aware of significant factors that raise your risk.
Let’s start by talking about your skin. The epidermis, or outermost layer, is a covering of cells that continually shed. Squamous cells, just below the outer surface, act as the skin’s protective lining. Beneath the squamous layers, basal cells generate new skin cells. Melanocytes produce melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color. To help shield the deeper layers of your skin from ultraviolet light, your body makes more melanin when you spend time in the sun.
The vast majority of skin cancers are basal cell and squamous cells carcinomas—they need medical care and can cause unsightly patches, but they don’t often spread to other parts of the body. Malignant melanoma spreads aggressively and can be fatal if not treated early.
The stinging and blistering caused by sunburn isn’t the worst damage it does to you. Each sunburn, especially at a young age, increases your chances of suffering from skin cancer, according to a study published in the medical journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. The researchers found that women who had five or more blistering burns between 15 and 20 years old have an 80 percent increased risk for melanoma and a 68 percent greater risk of basal and squamous cell carcinomas. Adults tend to get sunburnt less often, but the damage adds up later in life, too.
2. INDOOR TANNING
Lying on a bed under ultraviolet lights can be just as destructive. One session can increase the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by 67 percent and basal cell carcinoma by 29 percent, reports the American Academy of Dermatology. Regular indoor tanning is especially damaging before age 35—it raises the risk of melanoma by 59 percent.
3. EXCESS WEIGHT
You know that being overweight increases your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. It also may make you more likely to have skin cancer. Men who are overweight have a 31 percent higher risk of melanoma than those at their healthy weight, according to a study in the European Journal of Cancer. Overweight women have significantly less exposure to the sun, the researchers found, so their risk was harder to assess. Still, there’s another great reason to stick with your Nutrisystem plan to reach your goal.
Lung cancer isn’t the only type of cancer associated with tobacco use. British scientists found that smokers have a 52 percent higher incidence of squamous cell cancer than non-smokers. This research didn’t establish a cause-and-effect relationship, but it did reveal a higher risk among current smokers than former smokers.
You can do a lot to reduce your risk of skin cancer, but you need to be aware that basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are most common after age 50. Even if none of the other factors apply to you, regular check-ups with your physician or a dermatologist as you get older ensure that symptoms are recognized early and treated swiftly.