According to a recent study, if you’ve already experienced one of the more common, less dangerous forms of skin cancer, then you might be more prone to the more serious forms of the disease.
Your skin is an organ; in fact, it’s the largest organ in your body. It’s true! Although many of us take it for granted, it’s extremely important. One of your skin’s many functions is to protect your internal organs from injury and bacteria. Perhaps because of environmental changes, skin cancer is now the most frequently occurring type of cancer in the U.S.
There are two major types of cancer affecting this crucial, multi-layered organ: nonmelanoma — the most common type — and melanoma. Basal cell and squamous cell cancers are the types of nonmelanoma skin cancers that are seen most often. These are highly unlikely to spread to other parts of the body — so most people see them as relatively harmless, as far as cancers go. Most nonmelanoma forms of the disease are easily cured in the early stages.
Melanoma skin cancer is more dangerous — it’s far more likely to spread to other parts of your body. While only accounting for about four percent of skin-cancer cases, melanoma causes the majority of deaths from this form of the disease. However, don’t forget that it, too, has a high cure rate if found early enough.
The aforementioned study, reported in the journal Cancer, looked at 67,030 postmenopausal non-Hispanic Caucasian women, aged 50 to 79, with a history of nonmelanoma skin cancer. Family history, age, and risks such as sun exposure were all factored in. The participants did not have any other cancers at the outset of the study.
The findings were quite significant. The women were found to be more than twice as likely to develop a form of melanoma skin cancer over six-and-a-half years, compared to women with no history of nonmelanoma skin cancer. This could mean that genes have a role in making a person vulnerable to these two types of skin cancer.
This research underscores the importance of people who have had nonmelanoma skin cancer getting regular physical exams. Just because this form of cancer is normally easy to cure, doesn’t mean you should let down your guard. If you’ve had a nonmelanoma skin cancer, you have to stay alert.
Examine your skin on a regular basis or have a partner do it for you. Look closely at any marks on your skin — moles, freckles, and other blemishes — and especially watch for any changes in their shape or color. Keep your doctor on his toes — discuss your history of cancer, the future risks involved, and go in for regular checkups.
Don’t wait for the doctor to bring it up, you need to do it. The important thing to remember is that you must catch any form of skin cancer early on, as doing so could save your life.