Skin cancer

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Updated: 4/11/2007 2:45 pm
Unprotected, prolonged exposure to strong sunlight is a leading cause of skin cancer. There are three types of skin cancer: basal (BAY-suhl) cell, squamous (SKWAY-muss) cell, and malignant melanoma. The most common type of skin cancer is basal cell. It may appear as a small round or oval patch, with a white or gray shiny texture, or pink or red scaly texture. Though usually not life threatening, this cancer has a high recurrence rate. Approximately 20 percent of skin cancers are squamous cell. This cancer may appear as elevated, red, crusty patches that form on the face or ears. Both basal cell and squamous cell cancer tend to occur most often in Caucasians. Those with the highest risk are often fair-skinned and have red or blond hair. Malignant melanoma, the least common, but most dangerous form of skin cancer, spreads easily to other areas of the body. It may appear in or near a mole and turn black or brown. Approximately 75 percent of skin cancer deaths are from malignant melanomas. The best way to prevent skin cancer is to limit your time in the sun, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., when the ultraviolet rays are strongest. When it's not possible to stay inside, wear protective clothing or use a sunscreen with a protection factor of 15 or greater. If you had blistering sunburns during childhood and adolescence, you may have a higher risk of developing melanomas. There are a number of treatments for skin cancer, including radiation and surgery, to remove the cancerous area. For more information on skin cancer, contact your healthcare provider.

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