Sun Exposure & Skin Cancer

The majority of the wrinkles and age spots on our faces are caused by sun exposure, which can also have more severe effects including skin cancer.

In Europe, 1 adult over 5 will get skin cancer before turning 75. Massive Sun exposure, especially during childhood will increase the probability of developing skin cancer years later. Early on, use caution as 80% of sun exposure occurs before the age of 18.


What changes to the skin result from sun exposure?

The majority of the wrinkles and age spots on our faces are brought on by sun exposure. People mistakenly believe that having a glowing complexion indicates excellent health, yet exposure to the sun can speed up the aging process and raise the risk of skin cancer.

Most of the skin changes that we associate with aging are really brought on by sun exposure. The skin's elastin fibers are harmed over time by the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays. The skin starts to droop, stretch, and lose its ability to return to its original position after stretching as these fibers start to disintegrate. In addition to healing more slowly, the skin also breaks and bruises more easily. Therefore, even while sun damage to the skin may not be seen when you're young, it will undoubtedly become visible as you age. Your eyes, eyelids, and the skin surrounding your eyes may have problems due to the sun.

Skin changes brought on by sun exposure:

  • Precancerous (actinic keratosis) and cancerous (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma) skin lesions caused by loss of the skin's immune function.
  • Benign tumors.
  • Fine and coarse wrinkles
  • Freckles; discolored areas of the skin, called mottled pigmentation; and sallowness, yellow discoloration of the skin.
  • Telangiectasias, the dilation of small blood vessels under the skin.
  • Elastosis, the destruction of the elastic tissue causing lines and wrinkles.

What is skin cancer ?

In Europe, skin cancer is the most prevalent type of cancer, and the incidence rate is rising. It is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. Cancer cells proliferate and divide quickly and randomly, in contrast to healthy cells, which do so in an orderly fashion. Tumors caused by this fast development might be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

There are three main types of skin cancer:

  •  Basal cell carcinoma.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma.

  • Melanoma.


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95% of skin cancers are the less dangerous basal cell and squamous cell varieties. They are also known as non-melanoma skin cancers, and they are quite treatable if caught early.


Melanoma is the most deadly type of skin cancer and accounts for 75% of all skin cancer fatalities. Melanoma is made up of aberrant skin pigment cells called melanocytes. It can spread to other organs if untreated and is challenging to manage.



What causes skin cancer?

The main cause of skin cancer is ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, but UV light from tanning beds can be just as dangerous. You run the same risk from exposure to sunlight in the winter as you do in the summer.

Basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers are mostly brought on by cumulative sun exposure, whereas blisters of extremely painful sunburns, often before the age of 18, might result in melanoma later in life. Other, less frequent reasons include repetitive X-ray exposure, burn or illness scars, and chemical exposure at work.
The skin around the eyes and the eyes themselves are also affected by UVA and UVB radiation. Exposure to the sun may cause macular degeneration, eyelid cancer, and cataracts.

Who is susceptible to skin cancer?

Although everyone can develop skin cancer, those with pale, freckled skin that burns readily, bright eyes, and blond or red hair are most at risk. Although their risk is decreased, people with darker skin might develop any form of skin cancer.
In addition to skin color, additional risk factors for skin cancer include having a personal or family history of the disease, working outdoors, and residing in a sunny environment. Melanoma-specific risk factors include an excess of big, irregularly shaped moles and a history of intense sunburns.


What are the signs and symptoms of skin cancer?

The most prevalent skin alteration that indicates skin cancer is a new mole, a new skin lesion, or a change in an already existing mole.
  • Basal cell carcinoma may appear as a small, smooth, pearly, or waxy bump on the face, or neck, or as a flat, pink/red- or brown-colored lesion on the trunk, arms or legs.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma can appear as a firm, red nodule, or as a rough, scaly, flat lesion that may itch, bleed and become crusty. Both basal cell and squamous cell cancers mainly occur on areas of the skin frequently exposed to the sun, but can occur anywhere.
  • Melanoma usually appears as a pigmented patch or bump. It may resemble a normal mole, but usually has a more irregular appearance.
When looking for melanoma, think of the ABCDE rule that tells you the signs to watch for:
  • Asymmetry: The shape of one half doesn't match the other.
  • Border: Edges are ragged or blurred.
  • Color: Uneven shades of brown, black, tan, red, white or blue.
  • Diameter: A significant change in size (greater than 6 mm).
  • Evolution: Changes in the way a mole or lesion looks or feels (itchy, bleeding, etc)

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How is skin cancer detected?

The way skin cancer looks on the skin raises suspicions about it. A biopsy is required to verify the diagnosis. To achieve this, a dermatopathologist—a physician who focuses in examining skin cells—takes a sample of the tissue and examines it under a microscope. Sometimes a biopsy can completely eliminate the cancerous tissue, necessitating no further treatment.

What treatment is there for skin cancer ?

The kind and severity of skin cancer determine the appropriate course of treatment. The type of skin cancer, its size, where it is located, and the patient's preferences all play a role in determining the course of treatment.
Standard treatments for non-melanoma skin cancer (basal cell or squamous cell carcinomas) include:
  • Mohs surgery (for high-risk non-melanoma skin cancers): Skin-sparing excision of cancer with complete peripheral and deep margin assessment.
  • Excision.
  • Electrodesiccation and curettage: Scraping away the skin cancer cells followed by electrosurgery.
  • Cryosurgery.
  • Radiation treatment.
  • Drugs (chemotherapy, biological response modifiers to destroy cancer cells).
Standard treatments for melanoma include:
  • Wide surgical excision.
  • Sentinel lymph node mapping (for deeper lesions): to determine if the melanoma has spread to local lymph nodes.
  • Drugs (chemotherapy, biological response modifiers).
  • Radiation therapy.
  • New methods in clinical trials are sometimes used to treat skin cancer



 What can I do to stop UV damage and, eventually, skin cancer?

Even while the skin can occasionally heal itself, nothing can totally reverse solar damage. So it's never too late to start using sun protection and UV clothing when needed. You may postpone these changes by reducing sun exposure. As you become older, your skin does change. For instance, you may sweat less and your skin may heal more slowly.

Keeping skin healthy:
-Stop smoking: Compared to non-smokers of similar age, complexion, and history of sun exposure, smokers often have more wrinkles. It's unknown why this disparity exists. It can be because smoking impairs the skin's natural blood flow.
-Apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or greater 30 minutes before sun exposure and then every 2 to 3 hours thereafter. Reapply sooner if you get wet or perspire significantly.
-Choose contact lenses and cosmetics that give UV protection.
-Wear sunglasses that completely block UV rays.
-Avoid being in the sun as much as you can between 10 am and 4 pm, when UV radiation is at its highest.
-Conduct routine skin self-examinations to become familiar with current growths and to spot any changes or new growths.
-Use a humidifier at home, take fewer showers with soap (instead, use a moisturizing body wash), and apply a moisturizing lotion to relieve dry skin.
-Establish healthy skin cancer prevention behaviors in your child by acting as a good example. Before the age of 18, a person receives 80% of their lifetime exposure to the sun.

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When should I consult a physician regarding sun damage?

Contact your doctor right away if you detect any changes in your skin that concern you. Regular skin exams are necessary to identify any new lesions or adjustments to pre-existing lesions. The importance of routine eye exams cannot be overstated. If you notice changes in your vision, see your doctor.