Sunlight is necessary to support life on earth. It is important for our physical and emotional well-being. However, sunlight contains ultraviolet rays that can hurt our skin.  Skin cancer is the most common type of all cancers. Fortunately, there are things we can do to prevent skin cancer.

Types of Skin Cancers

There are three main types.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

  • Most common.
  • Grows slowly and rarely spreads.
  • If left untreated, can extend to bone and adjacent skin tissue.
  • Usually found on overexposed areas such as the face, ears, lips and nose.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

  • Second most common type.
  • More aggressive and has a higher likelihood of spreading compared to basal cell carcinomas.
  • Can be disfiguring.
  • Commonly found on lower lips, ears and hands.

Malignant Melanoma

  • This is the least common but most deadly.
  • Develops in the pigment cells of the skin, called melanocytes.
  • Almost always starts as a mole, so it is important to check moles regularly for any changes.
  • If left untreated, can invade lymph nodes and other vital organs.
  • Associated with brief, intense periods of sun early on in life.
  • Often found on the upper back and shoulders in men and legs in women.

Risk Factors of Skin Cancer

  • Light brown, blond or red hair.
  • Light coloured eyes – blue, green or gray.
  • Having a large number of moles and freckles.
  • Family or personal history of skin cancer.
  • Excessive exposure to the sun.
  • Tendency to burn easily.
  • Use of artificial tanning equipment.

Early Detection Saves Lives

Skin cancers detected early can almost always be cured.  The signs of skin cancer can take ten to 30 years to appear.  Examine your skin regularly for any unusual changes such as:

  • a spot on the skin or a skin growth that is changing in size, shape or colour
  • any wound that does not heal properly
  • any mole or birthmark that grows or becomes irregular in shape, changes texture, thickness or colour, especially if multi-coloured

If you notice anything unusual, see your health care provider as soon as possible.

Related Links