Sunburn and Sun Poisoning (cont.)

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What kinds of skin cancer can UV rays cause?

Overexposure to UV rays can cause three varieties of skin cancer; malignant melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma.

Malignant melanoma

  • Malignant melanoma is by far the most dangerous form of skin cancer.
  • The current lifetime risk of developing a melanoma is approximately 2%.
  • Melanomas may begin from changes in a pre-existing mole or birthmark, or arise as a new mole from otherwise clear skin (de novo).
  • Multiple features are more common in melanomas versus regular moles including asymmetry, irregular borders, multiple colors, and size larger than a pencil eraser.
  • Melanomas may be black or brown - and sometimes red, white, or blue, or a mixture of those colors.
  • Melanoma can spread (metastasize) rapidly. If diagnosed early, melanoma is often curable. If the diagnosis is delayed, melanoma can spread and may be potentially fatal.

Basal and squamous cell carcinomas

Basal and squamous cell cancers are slow-growing and are far less likely to metastasize (spread to other parts of the body) than melanoma. Both basal and squamous cell cancers can be cured in most cases if diagnosed early.

Basal cell carcinoma

  • Basal cell carcinomas are flattened, pearly, small bumps with translucent edges and slightly depressed centers.
  • They may bleed.
  • Usually, they appear on the head, neck, upper trunk, and hands.
  • If ignored, these cancers can cause considerable localized damage.

Squamous cell carcinoma

  • Squamous cell carcinomas are rough patches or crusty scaly areas on the skin that do not clear up and do not respond to the usual skin creams.
  • They may bleed a little.
  • They tend to appear particularly on the ear rims, face, lower lip, and hands.
  • If ignored, they can spread to other parts of the body.

These conditions are very common and if diagnosed properly and promptly, they are highly curable. It is very important to have routine skin checks by a skin doctor (dermatologist) annually. Annual screening can help in early diagnosis of skin cancer or pre-cancerous conditions that may lead to skin cancer.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/17/2015

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