Skin cancer on the rise

By Brian Loschiavo
September 3, 2009

Each hour one person dies of skin cancer. Ninety percent of all skin cancer is caused by sun exposure. Skin cancer accounts for more than 50 percent of all cancer. More than one million new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed this year.

Unless skin cancer has touched your life in some way, you may not know of its severity and prevalence. Out of all the different types of cancer diagnosed each year, you never really hear about skin cancer. The facts show that this is a form of cancer that should not go unnoticed.

There are many contributing factors to the causes of skin cancer. The most common are heredity and the environment. Some people are born carrying a skin cancer gene. The environmental factors come from over exposure to UV rays from the sun. The average American receives 50 percent of their lifetime exposure to the sun by 18 years of age.

Similar to any other cancer, skin cancer develops when the DNA, which is found in our cells, becomes mutated or damaged beyond our body’s ability to repair. These damaged cells begin to grow and divide uncontrollably. When this occurs in the skin, the cancer begins to develop. In most cases, skin cancer can be detectable in its early stages because discoloration or lesions become visible on the skin.

Three types of skin cancer account for nearly 100 percent of all diagnosed cases. Each cancer begins with a different type of cell within the skin. It is divided into one of two classes, which are non-melanoma and melanoma. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. The three most common types are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.

Even with all of the knowledge we have about skin cancer, it is currently on the rise. As a society we are beginning to recognize that overexposure to the sun is unhealthy but the fact remains that most people do not protect their skin from the sun’s harmful rays. As a result skin cancer is common in the United States.

If the current trends continue, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer during their lifetime. Melanoma continues to rise at an alarming rate. In 1930, one in 5,000 American were likely to develop melanoma during their life time. By 2004 this statistic jumped to 1 in 65. Today, melanoma is the second most common cancer in people aged 20 to 29.

Like anything in life, even with all the information that we have about skin cancer, people are still going to act like it’s not a problem and ignore the facts. What are you going to do to prevent yourself and your loved ones from becoming one of those 1 million people diagnosed with skin cancer this year?

Prevention and early detection are the only chances we have against combatting skin cancer. Sun protection can significantly decrease one’s risk of developing the cancer. You should stay out of the sun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. being that these are the times that the rays are at their strongest and sunscreen should always be applied.

Dermatologists recommend that everyone learn how to recognize the signs of skin cancer, use this knowledge to perform regular examinations, and see a dermatologist annually for an exam. Skin cancer is highly treatable with early detection. Melanoma has a 98 percent survival rate if detected in its early stages. If you know that skin cancer runs in your family you should be even more cautious about your prevention and detection.

With the sunny summer months coming to an end make sure you’re aware of your risks. Make an appointment with your dermatologist for a checkup no matter how much you are exposed to the sun. As a society we need to be more aware of this growing problem. To learn more about skin cancer visit The Skin Cancer Foundation at

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Brian Loschiavo

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