Are you at Risk of Skin Cancer?
Risk factors influence an individual’s likelihood of developing a condition. However, having a risk factor does not confirm the development of the disease. Knowing your risk factor for skin cancer can help you make informed changes to your lifestyle.
Though anyone can get skin cancer, some factors that increase an individual’s risk for the condition include:
- Sun exposure
Exposure to the sun’s UV radiation is one of the primary risk factors for skin cancer. Besides direct sunlight, tanning beds also significantly increase the risk of skin cancer. So, people who live in areas with year-round sunlight or spend most of their day outdoors without sunscreen or protective clothing are at a greater risk. People with a history of sunburns as a child are at a greater risk of developing skin cancer later in life.
Individuals’ risk for skin cancer increases with age as they accumulate exposure to UV radiation. However, younger people who spend most of their time in the sun are more likely to develop skin cancer.
- Fair skin
Individuals with fair skin (especially Caucasians) have a greater risk for skin cancer than non-white individuals. The risk is higher in fair-skinned people having red hair, blue or green eyes and freckled skin.
- Family or personal history
People whose parents or siblings have skin cancer have a high risk for the condition. Individuals with skin cancer in the past are at a greater risk of re-developing the condition.
- Certain skin conditions
People with inherited skin conditions like xeroderma pigmentosum, solar keratosis, psoriasis or eczema have a higher risk of developing skin cancer than others.
Other skin cancer risk factors are weakened immunity, past radiation exposure, greater number of birthmarks or moles, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) infection and exposure to chemicals.
Skin Cancer Symptoms
One of the first signs of skin cancer is changes to the skin. Since the symptoms of skin cancer are visible, they are often easy to spot and diagnose. Common symptoms of skin cancer are:
- A non-healing sore or ulcer that does not resolve in four weeks
- A slow-growing lump or growth that may appear pink or red
- Red patches on your skin that can be itchy
- Change of colour, size, margins or texture of a mole
Can Skin Cancer Risks be Reduced?
While you cannot do much about your genetics and family history of skin cancer, here are some things you can do to lower your risk for the condition:
- Practice sun safety such as using a high SPF sunscreen
- Cover your arms and legs when outdoors
- Use a cap or hat to protect your face from the sun
- Use UVA and UVB protective sunglasses
- Avoid using sunbeds and indoor tanning that use focused UV radiations
- Avoid sunburns, especially in children
Why Should You Get Tested?
Screening helps detect cancer much before its signs and symptoms appear. Skin cancers are treatable and are usually diagnosed in early stages since they are instantly visible. Skin cancer screening helps detect cancer early and increases the chance of a cure.
Dermatologists recommend screening for skin cancers in people who are at high risk for the condition. The goal of skin cancer screening is an early diagnosis that increases the chances of curing the condition.
How to Get Tested?
The best way to screen for skin cancers is by performing a self-examination. Doctors recommend examining your moles, freckles or birthmarks at least once a month to detect any changes. If you notice any changes, report them to your dermatologist immediately.
When performing a self-examination on your skin, look for the following signs:
- Asymmetry: When a skin spot or mole develops an unusual shape, or two parts of it don’t look the same
- Border: A skin lesion that has uneven or jagged borders
- Colour: If you notice a change in colour or uneven colour in a mole or skin lesion
- Diameter: If you notice the mole or spot increasing in size
- Evolving: A mole or skin spot that has changed in the past few weeks or months
Get Tested Today!
Ask your dermatologist about your risk for skin cancer. If you see any worrying signs or symptoms on your skin, visit your dermatologist to get it checked! Get tested today.