The main types are squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and melanoma – the deadliest form. Melanoma is much less common than the other types but more likely to invade nearby tissues and spread. Most skin-cancer deaths are caused by melanoma.
Repeated sun exposure causes genetic alterations in the thin, outermost level of your skin that can lead to skin cancers, which usually develop on sun-exposed areas, such as the face, ears, neck, scalp, shoulders, and upper back. However, unexpected parts of the body can also be affected, such as hands and even the soles of feet.
Protect your skin
Your skin is your body’s largest organ. Help protect it:
- Use sunscreen. Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against ultraviolet A and B rays with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Apply liberally 20 to 30 minutes before exposure. Reapply every two hours, especially after swimming.
- Dress for protection. Wear sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat, and a long-sleeved shirt, such as fishing shirts found in sports apparel stores.
- Wear sun protection even on overcast days. UV rays are strong enough to travel 93 million miles to get here; clouds can’t stop them.
- Avoid tanning beds. They can deliver a concentrated flow of UV rays seven times stronger than the solar noon.
- People of color need protection, too. In fact, all ethnicities should take precautions against sunburns.
- If sunburned, apply cool compresses and aloe vera gel on affected areas. If severely sunburned, see a doctor.
Children have extra-sensitive skin
Children don’t have to be at a pool or beach to need UV protection. Whenever youngsters are outside for extended periods, they need sunscreen, caps, and sun-protective clothing. So, please be advised: A few serious sunburns can increase their risk of developing skin cancer later in life.
By ANITA MEHTA, MD, FAAD
Chief of Dermatology at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic