Skin Cancer may Lead to Other Cancers so Skin Exams Are Necessary

Skin CancerNew research shows that other skin cancers, not just melanoma, at a young age may lead to other types of cancer, so self exams of one’s skin are necessary. The nonmelanoma skin cancers are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Nonmelanoma skin cancer leads to a greater risk of melanoma and other cancers. Individuals who have had nonmelanoma skin cancer under the age of 25 are at an increased risk.

On Friday a new study was published online in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, & Prevention that shows the increased risk of cancer for an individual who has been diagnosed with nonmelanoma skin cancer, especially for those diagnosed when they are under 25 years of age. Individuals who have had nonmelanoma skin cancer after the age of 25 are 1.36 times more likely to later develop another type of cancer, including melanoma, as well as bone and salivary gland cancers.

The risk increases drastically for those diagnosed under the age of 25. Those who have been diagnosed with nonmelanoma skin cancer before they turn 25 years of age are 23 times more likely to develop other cancers. This study is crucial; it will change factors in determining cancer screenings.  Knowing that individuals who have had nonmelanoma skin cancer, especially those younger than 25, have an increased risk of other cancers will lead to better cancer screening.

Knowing the risk factors for skin cancer is important, even more so now that the new study shows new risks. The American Cancer Society details some of the risk factors for skin cancer. These include a variety of things from sun exposure to genetics. Risk factors include other family members having had skin cancer, and unprotected exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. UV radiation includes not only sunlight, but also tanning beds. Pale skin can be a risk factor, along with previous severe sunburns.

There are some preventative measures which include seeking out shade, wearing protective clothing in the sun, using sunscreen that has an SPF of at least 30, wearing sunglasses, and avoiding tanning beds. An extremely important factor in any type of skin cancer is early detection. Self skin exams are necessary, especially with the new information that nonmelanoma skin cancer may lead to other cancers.

When doing self-exams for skin cancer, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends being on the lookout for any moles or lesions. New moles, particularly those that appear after the individual is 21 years old, or existing moles that have changed should be looked at by a doctor. Mole color is also something that should be checked during a skin exam. Anything that is translucent, pearly, multicolored, tan, brown or black may need to be checked out. The size of the mole also needs to be considered; if it is bigger than a pencil eraser it should be looked at by a physician. Lesions that do not heal, change, or are itchy are also a cause for concern. While these signs do not mean one has skin cancer, they may indicate it, so it is important to have them checked out by a doctor immediately.

The Skin Cancer Foundation gives several guidelines for doing self-exams of the skin, including, using mirrors to thoroughly check all areas of one’s body, using a blow dryer to move hair around in order to check the scalp, lifting up one’s arms to check underneath them, and remembering to check in between fingers and underneath fingernails.

Individuals should do self-exams once a month, unless a doctor asks them to check more frequently. Individuals should also have yearly skin exams done by a doctor. Both self-exams and physician exams of skin are necessary, especially with the new information that skin cancer may lead to other cancers.

By Ashley Campbell

American Cancer Society
Skin Cancer Foundation

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