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What are the risk factors for skin cancer?

There are two primary types of skin cancer: melanoma and non-melanoma.

Persons with non-melanoma skin cancer are at higher risk for developing additional skin cancers. Melanoma, the rarest but most aggressive form of skin cancer, is responsible for about 3/4 of all deaths from skin cancer.


Risk factors for melanoma skin cancer include:

Exposure to UV rays;

Personal history of melanoma;

Lots of moles, particularly atypical moles (dysplastic nevi);

Family history of melanoma in more than one relative;

Blond or red hair;

Fair or freckled complexion;

Severe sunburn during childhood.


Risk factors for non-melanoma skin cancer include:

Age, particularly over 50;

Fair or freckled complexion;

Severe sunburn before the age of 20;

Exposure to UV rays;

Blond or red hair;

History of keratoses (non-cancerous growths on the skin);

Workplace exposure to a number of substances, including arsenic compounds and petroleum products;

History of immune disorders;

Severe skin damage, including burns.


What are the tests available today?

Individuals at risk should have regular clinical examinations, during which their health care provider can check their skin for any changes or abnormalities.


What is my chance of getting the disease and then dying from it?

Skin cancer, while common, only accounts for about 1.5% of all cancer deaths. Nearly all skin cancers occur in fair-skinned individuals who have been exposed to the sun, x-rays, or ultraviolet light for prolonged periods.

Men: 1 in 74 men will develop skin cancer and 1 in 284 will die from it.

Women: 1 in 90 women will develop skin cancer and 1 in 486 will die from it.


What is the current recommendation?

Pay close attention to a birthmark or mole that changes shape, colour, size, or surface. A new growth on your skin – pale, pearly nodules that may grow larger and crust over; red, scaly, sharply defined patches; or a sore that doesn't heal – should also be monitored. You should have someone else check hard-to-see spots, such as your back or behind your ears. If you have noticed changes to your skin or are confused about what to look for, ask your health care provider. With skin cancer, prevention is very important. Always wear sunscreen

(15 SPF or more) and, when exposed to the sun, stay in the shade; wear tight knit clothing, a hat and sunglasses. Most skin cancers can be cured if caught early enough.




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