Did you know that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. with more than five million Americans being diagnosed each year? Closer to home, one out of every three Texans will develop skin cancer in their lives, so all of us at Family Healthcare Associates would like to recognize “Skin Cancer Awareness Month” by helping our patients understand more about the most preventable form of cancer around, if it is detected and treated early.

Who is most likely to get skin cancer?

Since the vast majority of skin cancer cases come from sun exposure, people who have fair skin, freckles, moles, or a tendency to burn are the most susceptible. If you have a family history of skin cancer, or have had 5 or more sunburns in your life (which doubles your risk of getting melanoma), we also recommend you get screened regularly. In addition, anyone who lives in high altitudes, or sunny climates should get checked while always protecting themselves with high SPF sunscreen whenever they are outside.

What are the most common types of skin cancer?

Most cases of skin cancer occur in the squamous cells, which are flat cells in the outer part of the epidermis. Another common form of skin cancer starts in the basal cells, which are in the lower part of the epidermis. These two types of skin cancers are most often found in parts of the body which are exposed to the sun. Fortunately, both squamous and basil cell cancers are very common and treatable if caught early.

The deadliest form of cancer is, of course, the malignant melanoma, which forms and grows in the lowest layer of skin. It’s less common than the other types of skin cancer, but it’s more dangerous because it can spread to other parts of the body (Texas ranks third highest in the U.S. for malignant melanoma cases). Melanomas can develop anywhere, but are more likely to start on the legs, face, chest, back or legs. Tumors are usually brown or black, but some are also pink, tan, or white.  While having dark pigmented skin certainly lowers your risk, anyone can get melanoma, so if you see a troubling spot on your body, get it screened by your doctor immediately.

Now that you know more about skin cancer, we encourage all of our patients to be proactive and check their skin regularly for warning signs. If you haven’t had a skin cancer screening recently, make an appointment with one of our physicians at Family Healthcare Associates, and always protect yourself with a high SPF sunscreen during the summer. For more information including risk factors, symptoms, and how skin cancer is treated visit this website.