Over 3.3 million Americans are treated for skin cancer annually with the number of new cases increasing each year. Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. Types include basal cell carcinoma, melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Studies show that 20 percent of Americans will develop some form of the cancer in their lifetime. While it will develop primarily on areas of the body exposed to the sun, it can affect other areas as well.
Skin cancer is caused by mutations in the DNA of skin cells. The malfunctioning DNA causes the cells to grow out of control and form a cancerous mass. The cancer begins in the epidermis, or top layer of your skin. This thin top layer of cells provides a protective cover that is continually shed. Squamous cells function as the skin’s inner lining. Just beneath the squamous cells, basal cells produce new skin cells. Melanocytes produce the pigment melanin. Located in the lower part of the epidermis, they produce more melanin in response to increased exposure to the sun. While basal and squamous cell carcinomas are the most common forms of skin cancer, malignant melanoma is the most dangerous.
While the exact cause of skin cancer is unknown, several risk factors increase the possibility of developing the disease. The most common issue is prolonged or intense exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun or tanning beds. Excessive alcohol consumption before exposure to ultraviolet rays increases the risk for sunburns. A history of sunburns elevates your chance of developing skin cancer.
Individuals with a suppressed immune system caused by underlying diseases like HIV or medications, such as chemotherapy and prednisone, also have a higher risk. Skin cancer can be caused by an overexposure to ionized radiation as well as environmental toxins and chemicals like arsenic that are known to increase the risk of the disease. Skin lesions and chronic nonhealing wounds like skin ulcers and genetic syndromes that are characterized by moles also elevate the risk for developing the disease. A family history of skin cancer is also a risk factor along with fair skin and residing in sunny, high-altitude locations.
If you notice any changes in your skin, moles or freckles, schedule an appointment at OC SkinLab in San Juan Capistrano. Our team will gather information on the skin changes, your family and medical histories and potential risk factors. The examination may include diagnostic tests to help determine the actual cause of the changes. The information will enable our team to recommend an appropriate course of treatment. Many forms of skin cancer can be treated successfully if caught early. We can also provide information on how to prevent skin cancer in the future. Contact us today to request a consultation.