I thought I would share in this blog some facts with readers about skin cancer. Future blogs will discuss tanning, sun protection and skin screenings

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in adults in the United States, affecting 1 in 5 Americans. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) reports that more than 2 million cases of nonmelanoma skin cancer (squamous cell and basal cell) are diagnosed each year.

Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer – an epidemic:

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common skin cancer and the cancer we see most frequently in our patients. Chances are quite high that many of us with fair skin will develop a basal cell cancer in our lifetime. Thankfully, these cancers rarely cause any serious health issues. They must however, be taken care of or they will continue growth unchecked and may cause problems if untreated.

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common skin cancer and can actually spread to other areas in the body (metastasize). Melanoma, which is the most serious and most deadly, thankfully, is the least common of the three main skin cancers.

Melanoma Skin Cancer – a growing concern for young adults, especially women:

Although melanoma accounts for less than 5% of all skin cancer, it is to blame for about 75% of all skin cancer deaths. The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that more than 68,000 melanomas were diagnosed in 2010: 39,000 in men and 29,000 in women. The ACS calculates that 1 American dies every hour from melanoma, including an estimated 9000 deaths in 2010.

Even more shocking is the data from young individuals. Melanoma is a leading cause of cancer for young adults in their 20s. It is the number 2 most common cancer (of all cancers) for young women, and the number 3 most common cancer for young men.The last 30 years have seen a rise in cases of melanoma, with the most rapid increases in young white women and older white men.

A recent study in the Archives of Dermatology illustrated some trends. Researchers looked at melanoma data for young women age 15 to 39 and found melanoma rates in the wealthiest neighborhoods to be 6 times greater than those in poorest neighborhoods. The amount of UV exposure was also a factor. Other studies have also found melanoma rates to be highest in people of higher socioeconomic status, one explanation being that wealthier patients can afford more leisure and vacation time, with more sun and UV light exposure.

UV exposure and cancer:

A main contributing factor for all skin cancers is UV radiation exposure from the sun and from artificial sources, including sunlamps and tanning beds. UV light exposure causes DNA damage and suppresses the immune system, which can also promote cancer.

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