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Skin Cancer

The most serious form of skin cancer is called Melanoma, which, if recognized and treated early, is nearly one hundred percent curable.  However, if it is not, the cancer could advance and spread to other parts of your body, where it could become hard to treat and even be fatal.   While this is not the most common of the skin cancers, it is known to cause the most deaths. 

Melanoma is a malignant tumor that stems from melanocytes, tiny cells that produce the pigment melanin which colors our skin, hair, and eyes. It is heavily concentrated in most moles. Therefore, the majority of melanomas are either black or brown. Then again, melanomas sometimes stop producing pigment. If and when that happens, they may no longer be dark, but skin-colored, pink, red or purple.

Are you at risk from skin cancer?

Everyone is at some risk or other for melanoma. However, increased risk depends on a variety of factors: sun exposure, number of moles on the skin, skin type, and family history. 

  • Sun exposure

Both UVA and UVB rays are dangerous to the skin; it can induce skin cancer, including melanoma. Blistering sunburns incurred early in childhood increase the risk, but cumulative exposure is also a factor. People who live in locations that get more sunlight, such as Florida, Hawaii, and Australia, get more skin cancer than others. So, avoid using a tanning booth or tanning bed, as it increases your exposure to UV rays, thereby increasing your risk of developing melanoma and other skin cancers.

  • Moles

There are two kinds of moles a person can have. They are normal moles — the small brown blemishes, growths, or beauty marks, which appear in the first few decades of life in almost everyone — and atypical moles, that are known as dysplastic nevi.  Regardless of the type, the more moles you have, the greater is your risk for melanoma.

  • Skin Type

Just as with all skin cancers, those with fairer skin are at increased risk. 

  • Family History

About 1 in every 10 patients diagnosed with melanoma has a family member with a history of it.  If your mother, father, siblings, or children have had the disease, you are in a melanoma-prone family.  Every person with a first-degree relative diagnosed with melanoma has a 50 percent greater chance of getting the disease than those who do not have a family history. 

  • Personal History

Once you have had melanoma, you run an increased chance of recurrence of the disease. In addition, those who have or had basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are at increased risk for developing melanoma.

  • Weakened Immune System

Compromised immune systems as the result of chemotherapy, excessive sun exposure, and diseases like HIV or lymphoma could increase the risk of melanoma.

If you fall into in any of these risk groups, you can protect yourself and your children by practicing safe sun habits. Remember to examine yourself regularly, watch for the warning signs and get yearly exams by a dermatologist.

 
   
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