The most common form of cancer in the United States is skin cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While people with some skin types may be more susceptible to cancer, anyone can develop one of the many forms of the disease. Two types of skin cancer dominate the case numbers, and four types account for 95% of all skin cancer occurrences.
Despite being the most common cancer, there are still plenty of myths and misconceptions about skin cancer. We’re skin cancer experts at MD Vein & Skin Specialists, so we’ve prepared a list of lesser-known facts about skin cancer to raise awareness and demystify the disease that will affect one in five Americans at some point in their lifetimes.
Ultraviolet light changes your DNA
There’s more to ultraviolet (UV) light than simply changing the color of your skin. While UV triggers tanning, a protective mechanism of your body, it’s also strong enough to disrupt the DNA chain sequences in your cells. The type of skin cell affected can determine what type of skin cancer you develop.
Tans and sunburns can cause different types of cancer
If you tend to tan after sun exposure and later develop skin cancer, you will likely have basal or squamous cell skin cancer. When your skin tends to burn, and you’ve had several severe sunburns over the course of your life, you have a greater risk of melanoma if you’re diagnosed with skin cancer.
Melanoma can happen in places other than your skin
Melanocytes produce melanin, a substance that makes pigment for your body. While your skin is full of melanocytes, which cause melanoma when they mutate, they exist in other tissues, too, such as the esophagus, rectum, and vagina. While UV exposure can trigger melanoma, it’s also possible for it to develop in places that aren’t exposed to sun or artificial UV sources.
Melanoma and moles
While melanomas can develop on a preexisting mole, 70% of melanoma skin cancer cases begin on normal skin. Moles themselves aren’t dangerous, but having a lot of moles over your body is a melanoma risk factor.
Melanoma and tanning beds
While tanning bed use is in decline, the American Academy of Dermatology estimates that nearly 8 million adults in the country still use indoor tanning devices at home or in salons. Despite the fact that other types of skin cancer occur more often, there’s no increased risk for these when using artificial UV light sources. An increased risk of melanoma is, however, tied to tanning beds.
Clouds and windows
The word “ultraviolet” describes light energy beyond (ultra) the visible spectrum of violet light. UV rays can penetrate when and where you least expect them, such as on cloudy days and indoors. Like visible light, UV rays can reflect, so you don’t need to be in direct sunlight to receive UV exposure.
Schedule a skin cancer screening with MD Vein & Skin Specialists by calling our office or using our online booking link on this page. It’s the best way to stay confident that you’re safe in the sun. Set up your appointment today.