Skin Cancer Facts

  • Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than one million skin cancers are diagnosed annually.
  • One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of their lifetime.
  • More than 20 Americans die each day from skin cancer, primarily melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer). One person dies of melanoma almost every hour.
  • Melanoma accounts for about three percent of skin cancer cases, but it causes more than 75 percent of skin cancer deaths.

What is Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer is a malignant condition that begins with the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells typically in the top layer of the skin. There are two broad categories of skin cancers: melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers (NMSC). Both can occur when skin DNA damaged by ultraviolet radiation (UVR) is not properly repaired by the immune system. Melanoma can start when the protective pigment cells that give skin its natural color become malignant. This can be due to UV exposure or other damage. NMSC can occur when the DNA of the keratinocytes, the main cell type in the skin’s top layer, is damaged by UVR.

What Causes Skin Cancer?

Ultraviolet radiation (UVR), a proven human carcinogen, causes skin cancer. Ultraviolet Radiation has two main forms, UVA and UBS rays. Approximately 90% of all non-melanoma skin cancers are caused by exposure to the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays.

skin cancer caused by UVA and UVB rays skin cancer caused by tanning

Tanning Can Cause Skin Cancer

Whether by direct sunlight or exposure in tanning beds, tanning increases your chances of developing melanoma by 75 percent. Using an indoor tanning bed greatly increases the risk of all skin cancers.

Who is at Risk?

People of all ethnic groups and skin types can be affected by skin cancer. A person with a parent or sibling diagnosed with melanoma has a 50% greater chance of developing the disease than those without a family history of melanoma. People with fair skin, light eyes and light hair are at higher risk of developing skin cancer. Skin cancer occurs infrequently but is most deadly for African American, Latino and Asian populations due to a low early detection rate.

The Skin Cancer Foundation

Since 1979, The Skin Cancer Foundation has been educating the public about skin cancer and the importance of sun protection.

The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Prevention Guidelines

  • Seek the shade, especially between 10 A.M. and 4 P.M
  • Do not burn
  • Avoid tanning and UV tanning booths
  • Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day
  • Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) total of sunscreen to all exposed areas, 30 minutes before going outside
  • Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating
  • Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses
  • Keep newborns out of the sun
  • Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of six months
  • Examine your skin from head to toe every month
  • See your physician every year for a professional skin exam

For more information visit: The Skin Cancer Foundation

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