The skin is the body’s largest organ. It protects us from infection, regulates body temperature, and provides us with the sense of touch. Although the skin may seem to be the most durable and resilient of all the organs, these qualities do not make it invulnerable. Among the myriad of diseases and conditions that can affect the skin, cancer stands out as a very possible danger. In fact, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the world.
Most skin cancers are caused by ultraviolet (UV) light exposure, usually from the sun. Tanning booths, X-rays, and certain chemicals also cause cancer if they are not used properly. The people most susceptible to getting skin cancer are those with fair skin, those who have experienced severe sunburn, those with numerous and unusual moles, and those with a family history of skin cancer victims.
What is skin cancer?
Skin cancer occurs when normal skin cells transform abnormally and begin to multiply. As they continue to grow uncontrollably, they form a mass called a tumor. There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma. BCC and SCC can usually be treated with a simple surgery. Fortunately, the success rate of these two cancers is 90 percent or higher. Melanoma, on the other hand, is much more serious and is likely to spread to other parts of the body.
BCC develops on the top layer of the skin, and often looks like a small bump. If it is left untreated, it can spread beneath the skin and can cause nerve and bone damage. SCC looks like a scaly patch or sore that will not heal. It is most often discovered on the face, mouth, or ears. Melanoma, though less common, is the most deadly of the three. It is usually identified as an irregularly shaped or evolving mole.
Skin cancer awareness has only just begun to make an impact on society. Doctors have known for years that sun exposure is the greatest contributor to skin cancer, but modern culture has been slow to adapt. The popular tanning trend of the past several decades is beginning to show its true colors with the rapidly growing rate of skin cancer victims. The “natural look” is regaining appreciation, along with diversity acceptance. People are acknowledging sun protection as a necessity for both beauty and health. Sunscreen application also prevents wrinkles and sun spots. For those who still want to achieve the sun-kissed glow without the risk, self-tanners and spray tanning are healthy options.
The most important thing to remember is that a healthy life is a happy life. If you take care of your skin now, you won’t regret that you did so in the future. Use sunscreen if you plan to be out in the sun for an extended period of time, or take breaks in the shade. Make an appointment with your doctor if you notice any unusual spots or irregular changes on your skin.