It’s not a new fashion craze, yet over 600,000 people will get this in one year alone. And, sadly, some of that 600,000 will die from it. Skin cancer.
It kills people. And it can be caused by too much exposure to the sun. Yet people still stay out in the sun without proper protection.
Skin cancers that are linked to too much exposure to dangerous ultraviolet rays are the most common form of cancer. And most of those ultraviolet rays come from the sun. The sun sends out three kinds of UV rays, but one kind is absorbed by the ozone layer and never reaches our skin. The third kind, ultraviolet A rays, go straight through all ozone layers and reach the ground and us. It’s the ultraviolet A and B rays that are hazardous.
The most common kind of skin cancer is known as “basal cell carcinoma.” This kind of cancer makes up about 76 percent of all malignant skin tumors, and it affects whites much more often than it affects people with pigmented skin. This type of skin cancer grows very slowly, and it usually does not spread to other tissues in different places in the body. However, any cancer left untreated can be deadly. And basal cell carcinomas can cause serious disfigurements if not treated immediately. If you detect the basal cell carcinoma early and seek treatment right away, your chances of a complete cure are about 95 percent.
Another kind of skin cancer that has an even stronger link to being caused by the UV rays from the sun is known as “squamous cell carcinoma.” This type of skin cancer makes up about 20 percent of all skin cancers, and these tumors are more common in dark-raced peoples than basal cell carcinoma.
The danger in squamous cell carcinoma is that these tumors grow quickly into large tumors, and this kind of cancer can (and does) spread to other parts of the body. The spread of cancer is called “metastasis”, and any time a cancer metastasizes, it decreases your chances of a complete cure.
Squamous cell carcinomas occur most often on areas of the body that have gotten a lot of exposure to the sun – the neck, arms, face and legs. And people living in areas close to the equator where they get especially strong sun rays have increased rates of this dangerous cancer.
A third, and by far the most dangerous kind of skin cancer is known as “malignant melanoma.” This kind of skin cancer makes up about five percent of all skin cancers. But, even though the numbers seem smaller, the threat is greater. Malignant melanoma often spreads to other body parts quickly, and many people die from it. Malignant melanoma appears most often on the upper back in men and on the legs in women. Scientists think that people with a history of many sunburns have a greater risk of getting malignant melanoma, and people with dark skin have a lower risk than those with light skin.
Obviously, the best way to deal with cancer is to avoid getting it in the first place. And the best way to minimize your chances of getting any type of skin cancer is to protect your skin from the dangerous rays from the sun. Some people have to go to greater measures to protect their skin because of their increased chances of damage from the sun. The greater risk of skin damage from the sun, the greater your risk of getting skin cancer. People with very fair skin and light-colored eyes are the greatest candidates for trouble from the sun. And although everyone should always protect their skin from the sun with sunscreen and protective clothing, people with light and fair complexions must take extra care.
The damaging effects of the sun add up in your skin. The sun and the sunburns you got as a kid and a foolish, sun-worshipping teen-ager are still adding up. So, the earlier in life you can begin protecting your skin, the better off you are in the long run. Many people wait until they reach their mid-twenties or mid-thirties before they start taking proper care of their skin and stop getting too much sun. Starting at a younger age improves your chances of living skin-cancer-free. And, making sure your children are protected from the dangerous UV rays will help improve their chances as well.
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