Skin cancer is a result of mutations and damage in the DNA of the otherwise healthy cells of the skin. However, what leads to these mutations is not known to date. However, there are some skin cancer risk factors that can increase the chances of getting the disease. These risk factors imply different conditions that can favor the development of cancerous cells in the skin and lead to skin cancer.
Getting a clear understanding of these risk factors helps to find an effective solution for 'how to avoid skin cancer.'
Here are some of the most common skin cancer risk factors that go a long way in designing a productive line of treatment for each individual.
Exposure to the ultraviolet rays coming from the sun is known to be a significant risk factor for skin carcinoma. These UV rays can penetrate the outer layer of the skin and cause damage to the DNA of the skin cells.
In addition, these UV rays can lead to the creation of DNA lesions, which then interfere with the DNA's normal functioning. Also, these UV rays possess the power to suppress the human body's ability to recognize and damage cancerous cells.
Indoor tanning is also one of the major skin cancer risk factors that should not be ignored. People who start tanning at a younger age via tanning beds and booths are at a higher risk. These indoor tanning platforms radiate UV rays, which can damage the DNA of healthy skin cells.
Fair skin's sensitivity to the sun's ultraviolet rays and lower levels of melanin make it a high-level risk factor for skin carcinoma. Also, fair skin is more susceptible to the DNA damage inflicted by ultraviolet rays.
As overexposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays is a significant risk factor for developing skin cancer, so is a history of sunburns. Sunburns imply that the individual's skin has been subjected to excessive ultraviolet ray exposure.
Family history is also among the known skin cancer risk factors, as inherited genetic mutations make individuals more vulnerable to the disease. Also, shared environments and hereditary skin types, such as fair skin, contribute to the increased chances of getting the carcinoma.
Individuals who have a history of skin cancer and sunburns also have increased chances of getting carcinoma of the skin. The history of skin cancer makes the human immune system weak, which can increase the chances of getting the disease back, especially melanoma.
Though most moles, also called nevi, are benign and pose no threat of cancer, some moles that undergo changes, such as atypical nevi, can increase the risk of getting cancer. Atypical moles are those with irregular shapes, sizes, and colors and are susceptible to developing skin cancer.
A weak immune system implies that the body's ability to fight infections and cancerous cells is compromised. Many diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, can lead to a weak immune system, which can further become a risk factor for skin cancer.
Certain skin cancer types, such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, are associated with increased age. As people age, their skin becomes more susceptible to exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays, which can lead to the development of cancerous cells.
Another skin cancer risk factor is ionizing radiation exposure, which involves different sources of radiation. For example, medical procedures, such as X-rays and CT scans, occupational exposure, such as nuclear energy and radiography, and environmental radiation, such as the presence of radiation in the soil and water, also increase the risk of developing skin cancer.
Chemical exposure, especially in cases where there may be exposure to certain carcinogenic chemicals, is also considered one of the most important skin cancer risk factors. For example, arsenic, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, aromatic amines, and chemicals that hold the potential to absorb ultraviolet rays are harmful and should be avoided.
HPV, or Human Papillomavirus, is a group of viruses that can lead to the development of genital warts. These genital warts are a major risk factor for squamous cell carcinoma.
Merkel cell polyomavirus, or MCV, is also associated with increasing the risk of getting Merkel cell carcinoma, or MCC.
Specific medications that make the skin more vulnerable to ultraviolet radiation from the sun, known as photosensitivity, can also be a risk factor for developing carcinoma of the skin.
Although there is no exact answer to 'how to prevent skin cancer,' there are some measures that one can take to reduce their skin cancer risk. It is important to note that these measures do not prevent skin cancer but only reduce its risk.
As ultraviolet rays from the sun are considered a major risk factor for skin cancer, getting adequate skin protection can significantly help.
An effective way of getting adequate protection from the sun's ultraviolet rays is by using sunscreen. It creates a barrier that reduces the risk of damage induced by the sun's rays to the skin.
Seeking shade whenever there is a high risk of getting exposed to the sun's harmful UV rays is an effective way of protecting the skin against cancer.
Lastly, one may opt for wearing proper and protective clothes to prevent the skin from getting damaged by the sun's ultraviolet rays.
As tanning beds emit dangerous ultraviolet rays, it is recommended to avoid these beds altogether as a potential skin cancer prevention method.
If an individual has any of the skin cancer risk factors, it is advisable to go for skin cancer screening every year.
As proper hydration is effective in maintaining healthy skin, it can indirectly help in possible skin cancer prevention, too.
Smoking introduces many harmful toxins into the body, which can have an adverse effect on the organs, including the skin. Refraining from smoking can be helpful in reducing the risk of skin cancer.
Understanding the risk factors for skin cancer and potential preventive methods to reduce its risk can help immensely in reducing the chances of getting the disease. Thus, experts often advise getting a regular checkup and visiting a doctor immediately if one has risk factors associated with skin cancer.