Our Comprehensive &
Responsive Approach to
The main reason that people get skin cancer is that they were exposed to too much sun on their skin. There is no way to know for certain who will get skin cancer and who will not. Most kinds of skin cancer can be cured if you notice it and go to the doctor right away. However, if you protect your skin from the sun now, there’s a better chance you won’t get skin cancer in the first place.
What Causes A Sunburn & Suntan?
Any time your skin is not protected by sunscreen or clothing and gets too much sun, it can burn or tan. Why do some people get a sunburn while others get a suntan?
You have something called melanin in your skin, which gives your skin its color. People who have dark skin have more melanin, while people who have light skin have less.
Here’s how melanin makes your skin burn or tan:
- Your body normally makes melanin to try to protect the deeper layers of your skin from damage.
- Your skin produces more melanin when it gets damaged by the sun’s rays. That causes the skin to change color.
Dark-skinned people usually turn darker brown, or tan, when they go in the sun. Light-skinned people usually turn more red, or burn, when they go in the sun.
Your skin can burn if it gets too much sun without proper protection from sunscreen and clothing. It is important to begin treating sunburn as soon as you notice it. These dermatologists’ tips can help relieve the discomfort:
- Put a cold, damp towel on your skin for 10-15 minutes a few times every day.
- Use a moisturizer that contains aloe vera or soy to help soothe sunburned skin.
- Take ibuprofen to reduce any swelling, redness and discomfort.
- Drink extra water.
- Leave blisters alone to avoid infection.
- Take extra care to protect sunburned skin while it heals (e.g. wear clothing that covers the skin, etc.).
Even if your skin never burns and always tans, the sun is still damaging your skin. The more that you damage your skin, the greater is your risk of getting skin cancer.
What Causes Skin Cancer?
People get cancer when some cells in the body are damaged and begin to grow too quickly. These growing cells form spots or bumps called tumors. Many different factors can play a role, including family history, but the sun is by far one of the major causes of skin cancer.
Here’s what you should know about the sun, tanning beds, and skin cancer:
- The sun gives off ultraviolet (UV) rays that damage your skin and can lead to skin cancer.
- Tanning beds also emit UV rays, so they damage your skin just like the sun does.
- Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) is the most frequently occurring form of skin cancer, diagnosed in millions of people each year. It develops in sun exposed skin, rarely spreads to other parts of the body, and is easily treated with surgical removal. Most cases of Basal Cell Carcinoma can be cured, especially when detected early and treated.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common type of skin cancer. It occurs in areas of the body that have been exposed to the sun for years, including the head, neck, backs of the hands, and the lower legs. It can spread to other parts of the body if left untreated and can grow deeply, destroying underlying tissue and bone. Surgical excision, Mohs surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy creams are all possible treatments for Squamous Cell carcinoma, depending on the severity of the lesion.
- Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. If allowed to grow, it can spread to other parts of the body and be deadly.
- Research has proven that the use of indoor tanning beds before the age of 35 can increase your risk of melanoma by 59%. Having had 5 or more blistering sunburns between the ages of 15 and 20 increases your risk of melanoma by 80%.
If you find a mole on your skin that looks different from the others, that itches or bleeds, has an unusual shape or different colors, talk to your dermatologist as soon as possible. If anyone in your family has had melanoma, you need to take extra precaution with your exposure to UV rays.
How To Prevent Skin Cancer
What can you do to protect your skin? It’s simple:
- Seek shade when the sun’s rays are strongest (between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.).
- Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeve shirt, pants, a hat with a wide brim that goes all the way around the hat, and sunglasses to protect your eyes.
- Always slather on sunscreen every 2 hours when outdoors, even on cloudy days and always after swimming or sweating.
- Be careful around water, sand, and snow: These things reflect sunlight, making the sun’s UV rays stronger against your skin.
- Stay away from tanning beds.
Concerned About Skin Cancer?
For questions regarding possible skin cancer, or to learn how to better protect your skin from the sun, see one of our dermatologists today.