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8 surprising facts about skin cancer

skin cancer

The number of skin cancer victims has increased steadily over the past 30 years in Canada. It is a more common cancer than you might think. According to 2018 Government of Canada data, one in 59 Canadians will have this disease. Here are some skin cancer facts you need to know because they could save your life.

Skin cancer is on the rise in young people

skin cancer

Since 1970, the number of people contracting melanoma – a potentially fatal malignant tumor – has increased eightfold in women under 40 and fourfold in young men. Researchers in the study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings suggest that tanning, along with better cancer detection equipment, may be behind this growth.

Melanoma in children, while extremely rare, also increased by about 2% per year from 1973 to 2009 in American children (0 to 19 years old). “And it’s not just melanoma! I took care of two 5-year-old children with a syndrome that triggered basal cell skin cancer, ”says doctor Andrew C. Krakowski.

Skin cancer in the eyes

skin cancer

Ocular melanoma is a rare cancerous tumor of the eye. It is usually diagnosed in patients around the age of 55 who have freckles inside the eye, says dermatologist Mona Z. Mofid, medical director of the American Melanoma Foundation.

The exact cause of melanoma of the eye is still unknown. “The eyelid area is also a common site for other types of skin cancer such as basal cells and squamous cells and these often go unnoticed,” adds Dr. Mofid.

Skin cancer can grow throughout the body

skin cancer

It might sound unfair, but you can develop skin cancer in and on the genitals, says dermatologist Michelle Henry and Mohs micrographic surgeon. That’s why your dermatologist spreads your toes at your annual cancer exam, adds dermatologist Dendy E. Engelman. “I was diagnosed with invasive melanoma between the toes of a 64-year-old woman,” she says.

“I found a pigmented basal cell carcinoma in the armpit of a 50-year-old Hispanic woman that looked like a skin tag, but the thing was it kept growing and bleeding time and time again,” says Adam Friedman, associate professor of dermatology at the George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences.

“This is why it is important to have skin tests every year, so that a qualified professional can examine all your little nooks and crannies so that cancer detection is done as early as possible”, recalls he.

Darker skin is not protected against skin cancer

skin cancer

People with darker skin may be less likely to develop skin cancer, but when they do, it is often more advanced at diagnosis and therefore more difficult to treat. For example, the five-year survival rate after diagnosis is 69% for blacks, compared to 93% for whites, according to the Cancer Foundation.

“Think Bob Marley!” Says Mofid. “He died of melanoma on his toe! Dark-skinned people underestimate their risk of cancer, and the highest increase in skin cancer has been seen among the Hispanic population, ”she concludes.

Moles aren’t the only sign of skin cancer

skin cancer

Irregular, growing moles are the most common sign of skin cancer, and the “ABCDE rule” is used as a guide for identifying melanoma.

  • Asymmetry: the mole is distorted.
  • Border: the edges are jagged.
  • Color: The color is not the same everywhere and can include shades of brown or black, sometimes with specks of blue, white, red, or pink.
  • Diameter: the point is larger than a pencil eraser.
  • Evolution: the mole changes size, shape, or color.

But melanomas can also look like sores or pimples that don’t heal. They can itch, ooze, bleed, or be painful, according to the American Cancer Society. These same symptoms of cancer can also be signs of basal or squamous cell cancers.

There is no such thing as the right kind of skin cancer

skin cancer

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, which is why some people refer to other types of cancer (basal cell or squamous cell) as the “good type.” Obviously, there is no such thing as the right kind of cancer!

Untreated squamous cell skin cancers can get bigger and spread. Basal cell carcinomas can also be disfiguring if not treated in time, according to experts at the Cancer Foundation.

UV rays from the sun aren’t the only cause of skin cancer

skin cancer

Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays is the leading cause of skin cancer – and indoor tanning – but your genetics also play a role. If someone in your family has battled with cancer, you may be at increased risk. Another risk factor is taking immunosuppressive drugs after an organ transplant.

Still not enough sunscreen!

skin cancer

Despite all the public health messages about the risks of developing skin cancer, the majority of people only apply 25% to 50% of the recommended amount of sunscreen, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

One ounce (30ml) is what you need to cover all of your exposed skin, and you should apply it to dry skin, about 15 minutes before going out. You should then reapply it every two hours, or after swimming or sweating profusely. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen – which means it blocks both UVA and UVB rays – with an SPF of at least 30. And it’s important to use sunscreen all year round, not just when you go. to the beach.

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