Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer Incidence Increases

Recently released data show an alarming increase in skin cancer incidence: A study in the Archives of Dermatology reveals that more than two million people in the US develop over 3.5 million nonmelanoma skin cancers every year. This constitutes a more than 300 percent increase in skin cancer incidence since 1994, when rates were last estimated.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the world. The sun’s ultraviolet rays are responsible for more than 90 percent of all
skin cancers. There are three types of UV light, called A, B, and C.  UVC is filtered out by the atmosphere and does not get to your skin.  UVB was originally found to cause sunburn and skin cancer, but more recently, it has been discovered that UVA can also cause skin cancer.  The longer you are in the sun without protection, the greater the danger.

Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are the two most common forms of skin cancer, and malignant melanoma is the most life-threatening. Actinic keratosis, an abnormal skin growth, is a precancer that can develop into skin cancer.

Basal cell carcinoma can appear as a red patch; a shiny pearly or translucent pink, red, or white bump; a crusty, open sore that will not heal; or a scar-like area. There may also be a rolled border with indented center.

Squamous cell carcinoma can take the form of a persistent scaly red patch that sometimes crusts or bleeds; an open sore that does not heal; or a raised or wartlike growth that may bleed.

Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are called “nonmelanomas” because they develop from skin cells other than melanocytes, the cells that make the tan or brown pigment known as melanin which gives skin its color.  Most nonmelanomas develop on sun-exposed areas like the face, ear, neck, lips and the back of the hands.

Malignant melanoma occurs in varying shades of brown or black or in multicolored patches of red, white and blue.  It may have an asymmetrical outline with notched or scalloped edges, and is usually larger than 6 mm (1/4″).

Research into malignant melanoma suggests that over-exposure to sunlight in first 25 years of life puts people at risk of getting melanomas later in life.  There are several other factors that increase the risk of skin cancer: having very fair skin that burns easily; having lots of moles (over 50) on your body, having had skin cancer before, your close relatives having
skin cancer, and being treated with anti-rejection drugs (i.e. after an organ transplant).

If you see any of the following signs of skin cancer or precancer, consult you dermatologist promptly. *A skin growth that increases in size and looks pearly, translucent, tan, brown, black, red, pink, or multicolored. *A mole that changes in color or in texture, becomes irregular in shape, gets larger, or is bigger than a pencil eraser. *A spot or growth that continues to itch, hurt, crust, scab, erode or bleed. *An open sore that lasts for more than four weeks, or heals and then reopens *A scaly or crust bump that is horny, dry, and rough and may produce a pricking or tender sensation.

Early detection and prompt treatment can result in a complete cure for all types of skin cancer.

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