Skin cancer is the most prevalent type of cancer in the world. In the majority of cases, it is due to excessive, unprotective exposure to the sun’s UV rays, which penetrate and damage the skin over time.
There are four main types of skin cancer lesions, Basal Cell Carcinoma, Actinic Keratosis, Squamous Cell Carcinoma, and Melanoma. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer, but also the least dangerous. On the contrary, Melanoma is the least common form of skin cancer (only 4% of all skin cancers) but is the most dangerous responsible for 80% of skin-cancer related deaths. It develops through degeneration of the pigment-producing skin cells (melanocytes) and can affect people of any age, unlike other types that are more common among older people.
Unfortunately, while the incidence of the majority of cancers is falling, Malignant Melanoma is on the rise, increasing at a rate of 3-7% in many European countries, compared to 2.6% in the US. Every year, more than 100,000 new cases of Melanoma are diagnosed in Europe and more than 22,000 Europeans die from this disease.
There are numerous reasons for this increased prevalence. These include a higher incidence of sunburns during childhood, as well as increased exposure to artificial UV-radiation such as in tanning booths. Lighter-skinned individuals are also at an increased risk, as well as those that regularly work outdoors or take part in outdoor activities for a prolonged amount of time, such as aquatic sports, hiking, cycling or rock climbing.
Many of these cases are completely preventable, and melanoma is one of the most avoidable cancers because the major risk factor, UV exposure, can be reduced by changes in sun behavior. Wearing protective clothes, avoiding direct sunlight between 11am and 3pm during the summer (when UV radiation is at its peak), seeking shade and regularly applying sunscreens are the main recommended means of UV protection.
If you do not want to be part of skin cancer statistics don’t forget to be sun protected, not only in summer but throughout the year. UV rays from the sun can reach you on cloudy and hazy days, as well as bright and sunny days.
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