August 01, 2014

Skin cancer

Sun protection is key

Skin cancer

Sitting in the sunshine can produce a warm feeling that's hard to beat. What's more, the vitamin D your body gains through sunlight is essential to health.

But as with most things in life, too much sun isn't healthy. Your skin is designed to protect your body from harm, including the damage caused by the sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation. But when exposed to this radiation for too long or at too great an intensity, skin damage occurs. Over time, changes in skin cells may result in skin cancer.

Three main types

Skin cancer develops primarily on areas of sun-exposed skin, including the scalp, face, lips, ears, neck, chest, legs, arms and hands. But it can also form on areas that rarely see the light of day. The three major types of skin cancer:

  • Basal cell carcinoma — This is by far the most common type of skin cancer. It may appear as a pearly or waxy bump, or as a flat, flesh-colored or brown scar-like lesion. It affects mainly sun-exposed areas, rarely spreads and is considered highly treatable.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma — This common type of skin cancer may appear as a firm, red nodule or as a flat lesion with a scaly, crusted surface. It primarily affects sun-exposed areas and has a high cure rate. However, a small percentage of these can be very aggressive.
  • Melanoma — While not as common as the other two skin cancers,...