Have your parents or siblings been treated for skin cancer in the past? If so, you may worry that you’ll get a similar diagnosis sometime in the future. While genetics play a role in increasing your chances of developing certain types of skin cancer, being proactive about your protecting your skin from sun exposure can help reduce your risk.
What Is Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer occurs when abnormal skin cells grow at a rapid rate. Sun, other ultra violet light exposure, or genetic factors damage the DNA in skin cells, leading to an overgrowth of skin cells that become malignant tumors.
What Are the Different Kinds of Skin Cancer?
There are several different kinds of skin cancer with varying degrees of severity. These include:
- Actinic Keratosis (AK)—Caused by sun exposure, AK produces crusty or scaly pre-cancerous growths. Most AKs look like red warts although they can be different colors. They’re most prevalent on areas of the body that receive the most sun exposure. Removing these lesions early will prevent them from turning cancerous.
- Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)—Resembling a scar, shiny bump, or an open sore, BCCs are cancerous lesions affecting the deepest layer of the epidermis. The most prevalent type of skin cancer, BCC is caused by a lifetime of sun exposure. BCCs rarely spread from the affected area but must be removed to avoid disfigurement or the rare chance of spreading.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)—The second most prevalent type of skin cancer, SCCs are an abnormal growth of squamous cells in the epidermis. Similar to BCCs, SCCs can look like an open sore, wart, or a scaly red patch. They have a central depression, which can often form a crust and bleed. Left alone, SCCs can grow and become potentially life threatening. These lesions are caused by cumulative sun exposure.
- Melanoma—Less common than BCCs or SCCs, melanoma is a more dangerous form of skin cancer because it is more likely to spread. Melanoma occurs when melanocytes, or pigment-producing skin cells, mutate and form cancerous lesions. Most melanomas are black or brown lesions. Some form from existing moles.
How Does Genetics Play a Role in Developing Skin Cancer?
The health history of your family plays a major role in your chance of developing melanoma. If you have a first-degree relative (mother, father, sibling) who’s been treated for melanoma, your chance of developing the condition is 50 percent higher than average. If you’ve been treated for BCCs or SCCs, you also face a higher chance of developing melanoma.
See a dermatologist for a complete evaluation if you have a family member with melanoma. Your doctor will examine your skin, including all of your moles and birthmarks, to diagnose and treat any trouble areas. Check your skin often for any changes in moles or new lesions and then visit your dermatologist for an exam. Skin cancer is highly curable if found and treated early.
How Can I Reduce My Chances of Getting Skin Cancer?
Take the following steps to help reduce your chances of developing skin cancer:
- Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 15 or higher daily
- Reduce your sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
- Never use tanning beds
- Wear sunglasses and a hat while in the sun
- See your dermatologist yearly for a complete skin evaluation
Reduce your chances of developing skin cancer. Visit the experienced dermatologists at The Rendon Center in Boca Raton for a thorough examination of your skin. Make an appointment today or call us at 561-750-0544 to learn more about our practice.