Cases of skin cancer are found to be on the rise, and statistics reveal that it is one of the most common forms of cancer reported in the United States. Skin cancer is characterized by growth of abnormal cells that lead to tumors. These tumors can be benign and harmless, or malignant and harmful.
The primary reason for skin cells to form tumors leading to cancer is excessive exposure to the sun and its harmful ultraviolet radiation or UV rays.
Skin Cancer – Who Is at Risk?
Skin cancer can be diagnosed with anyone, but there are certain groups of people who are more at risk for getting the disease.
General risk factors
- Male gender
As compared to women, men are twice as susceptible to skin cancer, both basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. The reason could possibly be attributed to greater time spent out in the sun along with genetic makeup.
- Weak immune system
Immunosuppression therapy required for an organ transplant or similar conditions where the immune system is weakened can significantly increase the chances of developing skin cancer.
- Older generations
Those in old age have been found more likely to develop skin cancer because of their greater number of years spent out in the sun, exposed to UV rays.
Bodily risk factors
- Skin type
Fair-skinned individuals, such as Caucasians, are at a higher risk of developing skin cancer. The risk increases for those with certain bodily features, such as green or blue eyes, hair that is blonde or red in color, and those who have more freckles or whose skin burns easily while out in the sun.
- Skin inflammation that is severe or long term
Individuals with skin that has endured damage due to severe burns, inflammatory skin disease, or any underlying bone infection may be more prone to develop skin cancer, although the chances are low.
The risk of developing skin cancer, especially melanoma, is high in those who have a large number of moles. Also, the presence of dysplastic nevi, moles that resemble melanoma to a certain extent, increases the risk of skin cancer by ten percent. Although not all dysplastic nevi develop into melanoma, individuals with such moles need to undergo regular skin examinations with a dermatologist.
- Personal or family history
Individuals whose siblings or parents have been diagnosed with skin cancer are at greater risk of developing the same. Also, those who have been diagnosed with cancer of the skin once can be at risk of developing the cancer again as they get older.
- Inherited conditions
Those suffering from inherited diseases, such as XP or xeroderma pigmentosum, are at higher risk of developing skin cancer at a young age. This is because the condition hampers the ability of the skin to repair damage done by UV radiation.
- Exposure to chemicals
Those who are exposed to chemicals, such as industrial tar, arsenic, paraffin, coal, and various types of oil, have an increased risk of developing non-melanoma types of skin cancer.
The chances of developing squamous cell cancer are high in smokers, especially on and around the lips.
Treatments undergone previously and other conditions
Those who have undergone radiation treatment as well as treatment for psoriasis are at risk of developing skin cancer.
Additionally, preexisting conditions, such as HPV (human papillomavirus infection) and basal cell nevus syndrome (or Gorlin syndrome), increase the risk of skin cancer.