With summer and sun a lot of people think of skin cancer. While everyone should be concerned about the Sun’s rays we have to look at all the issues that play a roll in the development of skin cancer. Your exposure to the sun is the biggest risk factor for skin cancer but there are other risk factors.

Each year there are 3.5 million basal and squamous cell skin cancers known as non-melanoma cancers are diagnosed in the United States according to the American Cancer Society. These types of skin cancer aren’t as deadly as melanoma. Melanoma affects about 75,000 U.S. residents annually. 9,000 people die from melanomas and 2,000 from non-melanoma skin cancer each year. Two people die from skin cancer in the United States every hour. More people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the United States than all cancers combined.

The annual cost for treating skin cancers in the United Sates is estimated at $8.1 billion: about $4.8 billion for non-melanoma skin cancers and $3.3 billion for melanoma.

If you are Black or Hispanic you don’t get skin cancer? While the people of color have lower rates of skin cancer they can still develop skin cancer. Compared with Caucasians, Hispanics and Blacks tend to present with more advanced, thicker tumors and thus tend to have a poorer prognosis, with higher mortality. The Five-year melanoma survival rate for Blacks and Hispanics is only 65% compared to 99% for Caucasians. Blacks have higher percentages of acral lentiginous melanoma (ALM, melanoma of the palms, soles and nailbeds) than caucasians, whereas superficial spreading melanoma is the most frequent type in Caucasians.

The poor survival for Black patients with melanoma cannot be fully explained by the differences in treatment or socioeconomic status. Studies indicated that more primary and secondary prevention efforts are needed to control melanoma in all ethnicities, even for those persons who are at a lower risk of developing the disease.

Skin cancer occurs when the body does not repair damage to the DNA of skin cells. This allowing the damaged cells to divide and grow uncontrollably. Skin cancer can appear as a dark spot or lesions, wounds that don’t heal or bumps on the skin. The types of skin cancer depend on the cells that are damaged.

This isn’t the only thing that can be problematic for skin cancer. Tattoos, some chemicals, other diseases and even some of our new and improved products are linked to skin cancer. Even fluorescent bulbs have been linked to skin cancer. All have been linked to skin cancer.

The more exposure to DNA damaging risk factors the more you are at risk. The skin doesn’t know if you are exposed once for a long period of time by one risk factor or hundreds of time by many risk factors for short periods of time. The exposure is cumulative.

Fluorescent bulbs emit ultraviolet light, which is not normally a problem. The bulbs are made with a protective coating. As these bulbs age they crack allowing UV rays to be emitted from the bulbs. The amount of UV rays emitted is small. Remember the damage form UV rays are cumulative.

Previous radiation can cause skin damage according to the American Cancer Society. Areas of skin that has been exposed to radiation for treatment of other types of cancer will put everyone at greater risk no matter the ethnicity.

Parkinson disease has been linked to skin cancer in a study published in the “Archives of Neurology.” The study found that people with Parkinson’s disease had an increase risk for all skin cancers. Other diseases that are linked to skin cancer include solar keratosis, xeroderma pigmentosum, Psoriasis, gorlin syndrome and eczema. The human papilloma virus (HPV) is a common virus that has several different strains. It is also a disease risk factor in the development of skin cancer. If you’ve had skin cancer before you have an increase risk of developing skin cancer again.

If you’ve had an organ or a bone marrow transplant and are taking drugs to stop rejection, have HIV or AIDS or have an inflammatory disease such as inflammatory bowel disease or rheumatoid arthritis your risk will also increase. It’s recommend that transplant patients have yearly check ups with a skin specialist to learn and look for skin cancers symptoms.

Smoking also has a link to skin cancer. That would include second and third hand smoke. A June 2012 study published in Archives of Dermatology and a December 2011 study publisher in Cancer Causes and Control found that squamous cell cancer was more common in smokers than non-smokers.

The American Cancer Society points out that many chemicals can increase our risk for skin cancer. These chemicals include coal tar, soot, pitch, creosote, and petroleum products, such as mineral oil and motor oil, shale oils and arsenic.

We cannot eliminate all risk of skin cancer but we can control and eliminate some.

1. Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or greater (for UVB protection) and zinc oxide (for UVA protection) 20 minutes before sun exposure and reapply every 2 hours. Not all sunscreens are not created equal. Read the label. Some sunscreen products may increase the spread of skin cancer.

2. Wear clothing, cosmetic products, contact lenses, glasses, sunglasses that offer UV protection.

3. Stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

4. Know your environment. Eliminate chemicals that increase your risk.

5. Stop smoking.

6. Talk to your doctor about everything.

7. Clean your house of risk factors.

If you have a fitness question or concern you would like addressed write to “Tips to be Fit,” P.O. Box 53443, Philadelphia, PA 19105 or tipstobefit@gmail.com. If you’ve missed an article of “Tips to be Fit” just search “Tips to be Fit.”

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