Statistics have shown that skin cancer or skin carcinoma is one of the most prevalent types of cancer that affects the human body. Notwithstanding, medical professionals, like Dr. Benjamin Cory Harow, and scientists generally believe that it is one of the more easily preventable diseases. But to appreciate their assertions, it is essential to understand what it is, its causes, and risk factors.
So, What is Skin Carcinoma?
Skin carcinoma is an uncontrollable growth of cells in the epidermis – the outer layer of the skin. This abnormal growth is due to mutations in the DNA of specific skin cells, usually the squamous cells, basal cells, and melanocytes (melanoma). The most prevalent of these are the basal and squamous cell carcinomas which are generally less aggressive, less likely to spread to other parts of the body, and easier to cure than the more life-threatening melanoma, particularly when caught in the early stages.
What Causes Skin Carcinomas?
The most prevalent cause of skin carcinoma is excessive exposure to the ultraviolet (UV) rays in sunlight. Other potential causes are prolonged exposure to toxic substances, such as arsenic, regular use of tanning machines and conditions, or long-term use of medications that suppress the immune system. Some of the risk factors for skin carcinoma are fair skin, personal or family history of skin carcinoma, and precancerous lesions or growths, such as moles.
How Can it be Prevented?
Dr. Benjamin Cory Harow is a medical professional with over twenty-two years of experience in emergency medicine. He is among the most vocal medical professionals who encourage people to practice safety when outdoors. Some of the preventive measures he would recommend to reduce the risk of getting skin carcinoma include the following:
1. Avoid direct sunlight: avoiding the sun during its peak will help prevent sunburns and suntans, which cause damage and can increase the risk of skin carcinoma.
2. Use sunscreen: if it is not possible to avoid the sun, using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF value of at least fifty (50) is an effective way to protect the skin from its harmful rays. Experts suggest applying generous amounts to all exposed areas of the skin
and reapply frequently depending on the type of activity and level of perspiration. This is especially important for fair-skinned people who have less melanin in their skin which affords less natural protection against UV rays.
3. Wear protective clothing: though effective, sunscreens do not provide absolute protection from UV rays. If it is impossible to avoid the sun, wear clothing that covers the arms and legs, even a hat and sunglasses to protect the face from direct sunlight.
4. Avoid tanning machines: artificial tanning has become popular in recent years; however, this practice doesn’t only come with a high cost but increases the risk of skin carcinoma because the light used in the machines emits UV radiation to produce a tan.
5. Self-examine: the skin is the largest and most visible organ on the body. This makes it easy for people to inspect their skin for the appearance of unusual spots or lesions, or changes in existing bumps, moles, marks, or other skin growths. Abnormalities are to be promptly reported to a physician to have the proper evaluations done to decipher whether the changes signal the development of skin carcinoma or not.
Overall, people can avoid skin carcinoma by limiting their exposure to UV rays and adopting skin-safe practices while outdoors. Most skin carcinomas are also highly curable if caught early.