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Let's talk about skin cancer

Cancer of the skin is by far the most common of an types of cancer. According to one estimate, about 3.5 million basal and squamous cell skin cancers arediagnosed each year (occurring in about 2.2 million Americans, as some people have more than one). The number of these cancers has been increasing. This is probably from a combination of better skin cancer detection, people getting more sun exposure and people living longer. Death from these cancers (non-melanoma) is uncommon. Most people who die are elderly and may not have seen a doctor until the cancer had already grown quite large.

Risk factors

Having light-colored skin

The risk of skin cancer is much higher for whites than for African Americans or Hispanics. Whites with fair (light-colored) skin that freckles or burns easily are at especially high risk. They have a high risk of getting sunburns and skin cancer. so they need to be careful to protect their skin.

Older age

The risk of basal and squamous cell skin cancers rises as people get older.These cancers are now being seen in younger people as well, probably because they are spending more time in the sun with their skin exposed.

Male gender

Men are about twice as likely as women to have basal cell cancers and about three times as likely to have squamous cell cancers of the skin. This is thought to be due mainly to higher levels of sun exposure.

Exposure to certain chemicals

Exposure to large amounts of arsenic increases the risk of developing skin cancer. It's also used in making some pesticides and in some other industries.

Radiation exposure

People who have had radiation treatment have a higher risk of developing skin cancer in the area that received the treatment.