Did you know that skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in the world? But if it’s caught early it is also the most curable. Canada sees about 80,000 new cases per year, but many of these are preventable. Our country ranks 19th on the list of places with the highest skin cancer rate and it’s largely due to our summers. Winter is far longer than summer, so Canadians tend to spend extra time outdoors, at the beach and in the sun while it’s around. Why is this a problem though? Because most people are not protecting their skin even though they are exposing it to harsh UV rays for long periods of time.
It’s still important to remember however, that while summer brings people outdoors for longer periods of time, the UV rays are just as dangerous and harmful to the skin all year long. Even during the coldest winter day, you can be damaging your skin with UV rays.
So what is skin cancer? What causes it and how can you help prevent it?
What is Skin Cancer?
Like all other cancers, skin cancer is the growth of abnormal cells and it usually develops on skin that has been exposed to the sun. It can, however, form on skin that isn’t exposed to harsh sunlight for prolonged periods of time. It’s most common on the scalp, face, lips, arms, neck, ears, chest and hands, but can potentially develop anywhere.
There are three major types of skin cancer (and several other less common forms): Melanoma, Basal Cell Carcinoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma are the most common. All three of these forms of skin cancer are caused by prolonged exposure to harmful UV rays without skin protection. Melanoma, however, can also develop on areas of the skin not exposed to the sun.
What Are Some Signs of Skin Cancer?
Each type of cancer presents itself in different ways;
- Can appear anywhere on the body as;
- A painful lesion that is itchy or burns
- A large brown spot with dark speckles, or as small as the head of a needle
- Moles that have changed in colour or size
- Usually dark lesions that form on the palms, soles of your feet, armpits, fingertips or toes
Basal Cell Carcinoma:
- Most common on the neck, face or chest and appears as;
- A wax-like or pearl looking bump
- A bleeding or scabbed sore that keeps coming back
- A flat, brown or skin coloured lesion
Squamous Cell Carcinoma:
- Most common on the ears, face and neck and appears as;
- A flat lesion with scaly or crusty surface
- A firm red nodule
It’s important to recognize some of the most common forms of skin cancer and know how they can present themselves so they can be dealt with early. If you see any changes in your skin that don’t look normal, it’s best to see your Doctor and have it assessed. Not all changes mean skin cancer, but it’s best to have it looked at and not leave it.
What are The Most Common Causes of Skin Cancer?
Anyone can get skin cancer and your skin type does not determine whether or not you could get it. However, those with fair (light coloured) skin are often most susceptible because they have less pigmentation in their skin. This pigmentation or melanin, helps to protect your skin from the sun.
Any exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays or things like tanning beds and nail salon lights, drastically increases the chances of getting skin cancer. Although UV exposure is the most common cause, there are several other things that can cause it as well, such as;
- A history of sunburns, especially if the burns caused blistering
- A family history of skin cancer
- A weak immune system
- Exposure to radiation
- Exposure to other harmful substances such as arsenic
While there are many causes of skin cancer, almost all of it can be prevented. The skin is the largest organ in your body and requires proper protection.
What Can You Do To Prevent Skin Cancer?
Because most skin cancers are preventable, there are many things you can do to keep yourself safe and keep your skin protected.
The first and most important is avoiding prolonged exposure to the sun. Are we suggesting that you spend what little summer time we have inside and out of the sun? Absolutely not. But we are strongly recommending being careful when you are outside.
Try to avoid going outside when the sun is at its hottest, usually between 2-4pm. If you have to be outside during this time on a hot sunny day, wear long sleeves if the temperature allows, and apply sunscreen several times a day to any exposed areas. It’s important to remember that sun exposure during the winter is just as dangerous, so apply sunscreen to any parts of your exposed skin even when it’s cold out.
Another important thing to remember is not all sunscreens are made the same and many store brands contain chemicals that are more harmful than the sun for your skin. This doesn’t mean you should skip the sunscreen, it just means you should be more aware of the ingredients and buy better products. Ageless Living Cold Lake offers a great selection of safe sunscreens that give your skin the sun protection it needs. All of our sunscreens are free of;
- Animal cruelty
- Artificial fragrances
- Chemical sunscreen filters
Getting your skin checked out by a doctor is also key in preventing or catchy it early. Ageless Living is able to perform advanced Dermoscopy techniques that identify skin conditions before they become serious. Dr. Dekker and his team use specialized cameras that capture a wide spectrum of light which allows them to see deeper into the skin. The Ageless Living team can use the same photo technology to take a closer look at any moles or spots on the skin and determine the least invasive way to treat them.
Although treatable and preventable, skin cancer is not something to take lightly and it’s extremely important to take your skin care seriously. Ageless Living puts your skin first and that’s why we offer great products and services to help you prevent and catch issues early. If you’d like to make an appointment or would like to purchase a skin care product such as sunscreen, our team of experts is waiting to help.