The most common type of cancer in the United States is skin cancer. Over one million people per year get diagnosed with some type of skin cancer which results in about 10,000 deaths. The three most common types of skin cancer are basal cell cancer, squamous cell cancer and melanoma. Of the three, melanoma is considered to the most dangerous form and account for over 75% of skin cancer deaths.
Melanoma develops in melanocyte cells. These cells actually create melanin or the skin pigmentation that gives our body its hue. When you are exposed to the UV rays of the sun, your skin produces melanin in an attempt to protect the skin and keep it from burning. This ends up damaging the DNA skin cells. However, the sun is not the only thing that emits harmful UV rays. Tanning booths, beds and lamps do also. That means that indoor tanning can be harmful as well.
When your skin is exposed repeatedly to harmful UV rays, there is a risk for skin cancer. However, with some people the risk is even greater. People who have many moles are at a higher risk because certain moles called dysplastic nevi has the potential of turning into melanoma.
Caucasians are 20 more times likely to have skin cancer than African Americans are. This is due to the skin pigmentation. Other risk factors to developing melanoma include -family history, certain medicines, genetics and even gender.
Melanoma is a serious skin condition. It can be treated and contained if caught in the early stages. However, if left undiagnosed it can be life threatening. There are many medicines and treatments for melanoma but none is as effective as early diagnosis. If you have a spot on your skin that you are unsure about, it is extremely important to be checked by a dermatologist. Don’t wait. Get in and get checked out. It could save your life.