Ten risk factors of skin cancer

Basal cell cancer is most common type of skin cancer followed by squamous cell cancer followed by melanoma.

The skin is the largest organ of the body. Basal cell cancer is most common type of skin cancer followed by squamous cell cancer followed by melanoma. All these types differ in their presentation, management and outcome; however, they share some common risk factors and the good news is that most of these are preventable.

So, let’s discuss the top 10 risk factors causing skin cancer and how to reduce your risk-

1) UV Radiation – Is the most common cause of skin cancer. Sun rays are the major source of Ultraviolet radiation exposure of skin. Both total lifetime exposure and intense intermittent sun exposure (e.g. sunburn) increases the risk. So, you should always wear a sunscreen on exposed areas of skin while going out in the sun or use an umbrella to protect yourself.

2). Tanning beds - Tanning beds while in fashion now a days, emit UV A rays and cause skin cancer, tanning creams however have been reported safe by studies if concurrent sunscreen is used.

3). Ionizing radiation - (such as that used for acne, tinea capitis and cancer, psoriasis and other skin diseases), the risk increases with radiation dose and is more in sun-exposed areas,

4). Immunosuppression - Patients with low immunity (those who have undergone transplant, have HIV/AIDS, or are taking long term steroids) are at high risk of developing skin as well as other cancers. The risk is proportionate to the duration and degree of immunosuppression and again sun exposure increases the risk.

5). Chronic inflammation - Chronic skin lesions like non-healing scars, persistent burns wounds, long standing ulcers, sinus tracts also increases the risks if there is a sore/ulcer that’s not healing for some time, go see a doctor to rule out cancer.

6). Arsenic – In various areas in world including India, the drinking water is contaminated with arsenic and studies have shown that it increases the risk.

7). Hereditary factors - These constitute very few cases of skin cancer. There are some inherited disorders like Xerodermatic pigments, Epidermolysis bullosa, Albinism, Familial atypical mole melanoma syndrome etc. which increases the risk of skin cancer by 2000 times and patients develop sin cancer at a very young age too. Other associated abnormalities seen in this syndrome helps the doctor suspect and diagnose it.

8) Smoking –Some studies have shown increased risk and smoking is associated with many other cancers, heart attack and stroke as well, so you should stop smoking if you haven’t already.

9) Presence of Nevi - High number of nevi indicated increased risk and a typical even have increased risk, Look for any change in asymmetry, border, color, elevation, irregularity or increase in size of an already existing nevus, any new changes should be shown to a doctor to rule out melanoma.

10) Targeted drugs – A specific class of drugs called BRAF inhibitors are used in treatment of malignant melanoma and are increasingly being tested for other cancers, they increase the risk for squamous cell carcinoma of skin, so regular complete skin examination by treating oncologist is important to find any new lesion early.

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