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Skin Cancer faq

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Living in Arizona increases the risk of skin cancer. Know your risks - we're here to help.

A cancer diagnosis can be scary. It is important that you understand your diagnosis and the treatments that are available to you. The Arizona Skin Cancer Foundation can provide you with resources and support during your skin cancer journey.

Skin cancer faq

Basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers
Basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers occur frequently and typically respond well to treatment. These types of cancer are caused by excessive exposure to UV radiation and often develop in sun-exposed areas of the skin.

Melanoma skin cancer
Melanoma is a less common but more deadly form of skin cancer compared to basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer.Melanoma lesions can develop on skin that is highly exposed to the sun as well as on skin that is rarely exposed to the sun. Melanoma can have a genetic component and lesions are more likely to spread and grow rapidly.

Excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, primarily from the sun but also from artificial sources such as tanning beds, is the leading risk factor for developing basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.

UV radiation is classified into two types: UVB and UVA. Both types can damage the skin and lead to skin cancer.

UVB plays a vital role in the synthesis of Vitamin D, but overexposure causes redness and sunburn, and overtime it causes skin cancer.

Overexposure to UVA causes tanning, pigmentation conditions, visible signs of premature aging, and is linked to skin cancer.

It is crucial to protect skin from overexposure to both UVB and UVA radiation.

Arizona has the highest number of sunny days of all U.S. states, and due to its proximity to the equator, the intensity of UV radiation in Arizona’s sunlight is greater than in most parts of the country.

The National Cancer Institute compiled data for all U.S. counties of the amount of UV radiation measured in watts per square meter. Of the top 20 counties with the most radiation, Arizona had nine – nearly half. In order of irradiation magnitude, from highest to lowest, the counties are Pinal, Pima, Cochise, Maricopa, Santa Cruz, La Paz, Graham, Yuma, and Greenlee. Because the sunlight Arizonans receive has more UV radiation than in most parts of the U.S., it is critical to use sun protection.

The magnitude of UV radiation that Arizona receives is compounded by the fact that many parts of the state are hot and dry; this encourages people to wear lighter or less clothing to stay cool. Arizona’s cooler areas in the north are at a higher elevation where there is less atmospheric protection from UV radiation compared to lower elevations. Using sun protection in all parts of the state is critical regardless of temperature.

Arizona residents and visitors participate in year-round outdoor activities, including golf and hiking that expose them to sunlight. Two of the state’s primary economic activities are building construction and agriculture, which involve workers who are exposed to the sun daily and year-round, putting them at an elevated risk for skin cancer.

The combination of leisure activities and work patterns in Arizona underscores the need for practical and effective sun protection measures to protect against skin cancer.

Understanding skin cancer risk: a comprehensive overview
Skin cancer is a common and potentially serious condition that affects one in five people across various demographic groups. Everyone is at risk, but some people have more risk factors than others.

Lighter Skin, Eye and Hair Color:
Individuals with a lighter skin, hair (blonde, red), and eye color (blue, green) are more susceptible to the damaging effects of UV exposure, increasing their risk of developing skin cancer.

Outdoor workers, athletes, hobbyists
People who spend a significant amount of time outdoors, whether for work, sport or enjoyment, face an increased risk of skin cancer due to prolonged exposure to UV radiation from the sun. Prolonged exposure increases the likelihood of DNA damage to skin cells, potentially leading to the development of cancerous growths.

Older adults
Age is a significant factor in skin cancer risk, with older adults being more susceptible because the cumulative effect of UV exposure over a lifetime can manifest as skin cancer. In addition, the aging process can cause changes in the skin that make it more susceptible to damage and less able to repair itself.

People with a history of sunburns
Experiencing one or more blistering, peeling sunburns, especially during childhood or adolescence, is associated with an increased risk of skin cancer. Sunburns indicate significant UV damage to the skin and may contribute to the development of skin cancer.

Individuals with a history of tanning (suntanning and indoor tanning)
Tanning, whether through sunbathing or artificial methods such as tanning beds, exposes skin to UV radiation that can lead to DNA damage and mutations in skin cells, contributing to the development of both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers.

People with a family history of skin cancer
Individuals with a family history of skin cancer may be at a higher risk due to genetic factors and shared lifestyle habits. It is important for them to be vigilant about sun protection and undergo regular skin exams to detect any potential issues early on.

Immunocompromised individuals
People with weakened immune systems, such as those who have had organ transplants or who have certain medical conditions, are at increased risk for skin cancer. The immune system plays a critical role in detecting and eliminating abnormal cells, and a compromised immune response can allow cancer cells to grow.

Because skin cancer risk is influenced by a combination of factors, understanding these risk factors is key to implementing effective prevention strategies. It is important for individuals, especially those at higher risk, to prioritize sun protection measures, including the use of sunscreen, protective clothing, hats, sunglasses, shade, and routine skin exams by a dermatologist.

The Arizona Skin Cancer Foundation recommends using as a resource to better understand your skin cancer risk factors and preventive measures, and to stay informed about updates in skin cancer research.