OK, this is serious stuff. On average, a person dies every hour from skin cancer, mostly the form known as melanoma. That's over 8,500 people each year! In the USA, skin cancer is the most common form of the disease, and one in five Americans will develop it during their lifetime. Think of it, there are more new cases of it than breast, colon, prostate and lung cancers COMBINED! Sadly, that number continues to rise!
Basal Cell carcinoma (the most common form) and Squamous Cell carcinoma (the second most common form) are non-melanoma skin cancers linked with sun accumulation that has occurred over a number of years. The tumors from these cancers normally appear on parts of the body that have regular sun exposure, but they will once in awhile show up on body parts that are usually covered and not exposed to the sun.
There are about a million cases of Basal Cell carcinoma per year and luckily, they rarely lead to fatality. They can be disfiguring, though. Basal Cell carcinoma is the most common cancer in Caucasians, Hispanics, Chinese, and Japanese populations. Squamous Cell carcinoma strikes about a quarter of a million times and causes about 2,500 deaths each year. It is the most common skin cancer among African-Americans and Asian Indians.
The sun exposure method that most likely is linked with melanoma (and perhaps Basal Cell carcinoma) is intense exposure to the sun over a relatively short period of time. Those lobster-red sunburns
that make it almost unbearable to sleep - especially when you try to roll over. Those blistering, blazing sunburns that make you never want to go out in the sun again. Ouch! These are the types of sun damage associated with melanoma.
If you've had five or more of those types of burns,
your risk for melanoma doubles.
Other risk factors include things like family history and many major moles on the body. Melanoma can appear anywhere though, not just the areas that have been exposed to the sun's harmful rays.
The majority of people diagnosed with melanoma are white men over the age of 50, and its one of only three cancers with an increasing mortality rate for men. While melanoma is uncommon in African Americans, Latinos, and Asians, it is frequently fatal for these populations, as they have a greater tendency to be in the advanced stages of the disease at the time they are diagnosed with it.
Women aged 39 and under have a higher probability of developing melanoma than any other cancer, except breast cancer. One in 41 men and one in 61 women will develop melanoma during their lifetime. In patients whose melanoma is detected early (prior to the tumor entering the epidermis), their survival rate is about 99 percent. This falls all the way down to just 15 percent in those with the advanced form of the disease.
Sun exposure can cause most (up to 90 percent!) of the visible effects of aging. That's even more reason to be sun safe!
Indoor tanners are not exempt, either! People who use tanning beds are almost three times more likely to develop Squamous Cell carcinoma and almost twice as likely to develop Basal Cell carcinoma. Try a sunless tanning lotion or a spray-on tan instead.
Lastly, don't forget about the kids! Melanoma accounts for up to three percent of all pediatric cancers, and diagnosis and treatments are delayed in 40 percent of childhood melanoma cases.
Acknowledgement: The Skin Cancer Foundation