When most people think about skin cancer, they equate it with too much sun and too little protection. While it’s true that excessive exposure to UVA/UVB rays is the main risk factor, many people are unaware of other elements which can contribute to the diagnosis of one of the three major types of skin cancer: Melanoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma and Basal Cell Carcinoma.
As knowledge is power and early detection often leads to a cure, I would like to share the eight top risk factors that can lead to skin cancer that many people are unaware of.
The Human Papillomavirus (HPV). There are over 150 strains of this common sexually transmitted disease. What is very concerning is that most people who have been exposed to the virus are unaware unless they have a strain that causes warts or have an abnormal pap smear. Here’s what you need to know: the strains of HPV that cause cervical cancer (6,8, 11, 13, 31, 33) are the same ones that cause skin cancer and patients can be tested to find out what strain they carry. It is important for both men and women to have regular check-ups and patients between the ages of 11-26 may benefit from the vaccine.
A Weakened Immune System. HIV/AIDS patients and those taking immunosuppressive medications after an organ transplant (or to manage other medical issues such as Ulcerative Colitis or autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis) are at a higher risk of developing skin cancer.
Bone marrow disorders. Patient’s who have been diagnosed with leukemia and myeloproliferative disorders are at increased risk even though they don’t take immunosuppressive medications.
Topical Steroid Creams. Extended use of steroid creams for eczema and psoriasis can put patients at risk as they thin the skin, reducing their protection levels.
Family History. Genetics play an important role in a patient’s risk level. If your parents or siblings have a history of skin cancer, your risk factor is higher.
Physical Trauma. Damaged tissue can’t heal areas where there is underlying sun-damage. This is because the areas have mutations over time which can lead to skin cancer.
Exposure To Radiation. The use of radiation for the treatment of acne, eczema or psoriasis using radiation may increase your risk.
Exposure to toxins. Chemicals such as arsenic, vinyl chloride, dioxins, and chlorophenols have all been linked to skin cancer.
It is important to be informed and to wear sunscreen while getting checked regularly. Additionally, The Skin Cancer Foundation is an excellent resource of information on this topic.