Skin Cancer Risks | Patient Information | Mole Check Clinic

Skin Cancer Risks

Australia is one of the leading countries in the world in skin cancer rates. Everyone should be aware of the risks associated with it. The following are some of the most common risk factors associated with skin cancer. Please note, they are not listed in order of significance.

You and your family history of skin cancer

The advances in medical science have made it possible to treat many skin conditions such as moles, age spots, acne and others by lasers without any significant downtime or side effects.

People who have been diagnosed with melanoma once in their life have a greater chance of developing it again. Therefore, once melanoma is detected and treated successfully the patient must be checked at regular intervals for a period prescribed by their doctor.

Melanoma can be genetically inherited. About 5 to 10 per cent of people developing melanoma have one or more family members who also had melanoma. Those who do have family history of skin cancer should have regular self-checks once a month, must be careful about UV exposure and always use sun protection and should have regular skin cancer checks with a qualified medical practitioner. It is important to advise your doctor if there is a history of skin cancer in the family.

Exposure to UV rays

In Australia about 95% of all melanomas occur due to excessive exposure to UV rays. The main source of UV rays is sunlight. UVB rays give you sunburn, and UVA rays cause skin aging. Both can increase your risk of developing skin cancer. Skin cancer begins when UV rays damage the DNA of genes that control skin cell growth. Outdoor workers are exposed to UV rays up to 10 times more than indoor workers which puts them at much higher risk of developing skin cancer.

Exposure to UV radiation that does not cause sunburn may still cause damage to skin cells and increase chances of development of skin cancer. Repeated exposure to UV radiation every year can also lead to skin cancer.

It is, therefore, essential for everybody to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen when going outdoors and applying it at least 30 minutes prior to going outside and reapplying it according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Large number of moles

A mole is a dark spot on the skin composed of skin cells (melanocytes) that have grown in a cluster. Moles may be present at birth but more often are caused by exposure to UV rays. People with fair skin have more moles than people with darker skin. The number of moles people have depends on the combination of genetics and UV exposure.

It is completely normal to have moles on your body. However, some moles could be dangerous. Having a large number of moles puts you in a higher risk category of developing skin cancer. If you have a lot of moles you should always have regular check ups with a qualified physician.

Sensitive skin type

The risk of developing melanoma is much higher for people with light skin and blond or red hair and blue or green eyes than for people with darker skin, eyes and hair. Light skin is more sensitive to UV rays which may cause damage to skin before it tans. The tan is caused by increased production of melanin which protects the skin against the UV rays. The darker the skin the more melanin producing cell there are and, therefore, more melanin can be produced to protect is against the UV rays.

Sunburn

In Australia, on average, 1 in 8 adults are sunburned every summer weekend doing normal outdoor activities. Sunburns also occurs on cooler days as many people do not realise that UV rays may still be quite strong. Sunburn is a product of too much UV radiation hitting your skin and damaging DNA in the skin cells. To be damaging sunburn doesn’t have to be extreme. If the skin is red or pink is was sunburned. People cannot feel UV rays, that’s why it is quite easy to be sunburned on cool days. It is important to immediately come out of the sun if you notice your skin going pink or red to avoid further damage. Applying skin lotion could make your skin fell better but will not help repairing DNA damage.

Suntanning

Suntanning without burning can be detrimental to skin, cause premature aging and increase chances of developing skin cancer. Tan is caused by melanin producing cells becoming more active in response to UV radiation that can damage DNA in skin cells. Even though melanin shields DNA from UV rays, the whole process of tanning is centred around exposing the skin to excessive amounts of UV radiation which can increase the risk of skin cancer.

Solariums and sunbeds

Solariums and sunbeds produce UV radiation up to 3 times stronger than the summer sun. Research demonstrates that solarium use before the age of 35 increases the risk of developing melanoma by 35%. Just like the UV radiation from the sun, UV rays from sunbeds can damage DNA in skin cells.

Here are some of the facts about sunbeds:

  • Sunbed tanning is not safer than sun tanning
  • Skin damage occurs even without a burn
  • Every time you use sunbed you damage your skin even if you do not see it
  • Using sunbed can make your skin course and wrinkled
  • Regular short sessions of tanning in a sunbed does not make it safer
  • Tanning in a sunbed does is not needed to produce vitamin D