WORLD | May 3, 2023

Skin Cancer: The most common cancer under the sun

Mikala Johnson

Mikala Johnson / Our Today

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The month of May is being observed across the world as Skin Cancer Awareness Month. The month is devoted to raising awareness of one of the most common cancers in the world, particularly in the United States.

Skin cancer is the United States’ most common cancer with approximately 9,500 cases diagnosed daily and over five million each year. Fortunately, skin cancer is also one of the most preventable cancers.

Skin cancer, in a nutshell, is the abnormal growth of skin cells. It is most often developed on skin exposed to the sun. However, this common form of cancer can also occur on areas of your skin not normally exposed to sunlight.

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are three major types of skin cancer — basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.

Where skin cancer develops

Skin cancer develops primarily on areas of sun-exposed skin, including the scalp, face, lips, ears, neck, chest, arms and hands, and on the legs in women.

Nevertheless, it is important to note that it can also form on areas that rarely see the light of day — your palms, beneath your fingernails or toenails, and even your genital area.

While there are individuals who are of the view that skin cancer only affects certain people, studies have proven otherwise.  

According to dermatologists, it’s true that people of a darker skin tone, have a lower risk of getting skin cancer. But people who have darker skin tones can develop skin cancer because it is a disease that kin cancer affects people of all skin tones, including those with darker complexions.

Dermatologists encourage individuals to check their skin for signs of skin cancer, no matter the colour of their skin.

The fact that skin cancer is less likely to be suspected in patients of colour because it occurs less frequently, these patients may be less likely to get regular full-body skin exams. Which is why in darker skin tones, skin cancer is more likely to be found in an advanced stage and, as a result, have a worse prognosis.

When melanoma actually occurs in people with dark skin tones, it’s more likely to occur in areas not normally exposed to the sun, such as the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.

Individuals are encouraged to get in the habit of performing skin self-exams to help them in finding skin cancer early.

Once you observe any changes in the size, shape or elevation of a mole, or any new symptoms such as bleeding, itching or crusting, you should visit a health care provider.

Ways to reduce the risk of skin cancer

You can reduce your risk of skin cancer by limiting or avoiding exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, mainly from the sun.

Checking your skin for suspicious changes can help detect skin cancer at its earliest stages. Early detection of skin cancer gives you the greatest chance for successful skin cancer treatment.

Along with checking your skin for signs of skin cancer, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) encourages everyone to Practice Safe Sun as it can help reduce your risk of developing skin cancer.

To #PracticeSafeSun all year-round, follow these three simple steps every time you step outside.

  • Seek shade –
  • Wear sun-protective clothing –
  • Apply sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum protection, water resistance, and an SPF of 30 or higher


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