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With spring and summer arriving, the air becomes warmer; the sun gets brighter; and outdoor activities are more frequent. Naturally, your skin’s exposure to the sun increases during this time of year, which results in a greater risk of skin damage, including the development of skin cancer. The good news is that most skin cancers can be preventable.
What is skin cancer?
“Specifically, skin cancer is the abnormal growth of skin cells and usually the result of overexposure to the sun and harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays,” says Kevin Cockerill, M.D., Mayo Clinic Health System oncologist. “Although skin that’s most exposed accounts for the majority of cases, well-covered areas of the body, such as your palms or genital area, can also be affected. All pigmentations — dark and light — are subject to skin cancer.”
According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S., with 5.4 million basal and squamous cell skin cancers and more than 76,000 melanoma cases diagnosed each year. Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, kills more than 10,000 Americans each year — nearly 75 percent of all skin cancer deaths.
What common forms does skin cancer take?
Skin cancer can take many forms, but Dr. Cockerill says the three most common are:
What can you do to prevent skin cancer?
Leading medical experts, including those at Mayo Clinic, make these recommendations for preventing skin cancer:
Who’s most at risk for skin cancer?
“Anyone can get skin cancer, but those at a higher risk include individuals who have a heavy exposure to UV rays, lighter skin, family history of skin cancer, prevalent moles, numerous severe sunburns in the past, weakened immune system and those who live in sunny or high-altitude climates,” adds Dr. Cockerill.
Contact your health care team if you have concerns about skin abnormalities. Skin cancer is treatable when caught in its early stages.
“Have fun as the warm days roll in, but always keep skin cancer prevention in mind,” says Dr. Cockerill.