Cancer is a scary word. But when you know all the facts, knowledge and understanding can reduce the fear. Find out everything you need to know about cancer and its effects...

Skin Cancer

Of all the types of cancer identified, skin cancer is by far the most common. In fact, it is thought that as many as 1 million new cases of this type of cancer take place every year. More alarmingly, the skin cancer rate is actually on the rise, and it is thought that a large percentage of males that live to 65 years of age will develop the condition one or more times in their lives.

Warning sign

While skin cancer may remain undetected for many years due to the absence of any symptoms, a common sign is a change in the skin's appearance. In most cases, this would appear as a growth or a sore that does not heal.

Types of skin cancer

There are actually three main types of skin cancer. These are:

· Basal cell carcinoma
· Squamous cell carcinoma
· Melanoma

Of the three, basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas are the most common. These two types of skin cancer are also known as nonmelanoma skin cancer. Melanoma on the other hand is comparatively rare, although it is the most serious of the three. This is because melanomas usually spread to other parts of the body at a rapid rate.

Risk factors for basal cell carcinoma

There are a number of factors that identify an individual as high risk for developing the condition. Among these factors are having light toned skin, exposure to the sun, and the age of the individual. According to studies, basal cell carcinoma most often occurs in older individuals with light coloured skin. It is interesting to note however that as many as 20% of such cases are characterized by cancers that develop in parts of the body that are not typically exposed to the sun. It is also thought that this type of cancer may be caused by an immune system weakened by disease or medication.

Other risk factors

One of the most familiar causes of this condition is sun exposure. However, studies have shown that basal cell carcinoma is not often caused by constant exposure to the sun, but more likely caused by infrequent sun exposure early in life.

Skin cancer resulting from sun exposure is also a lot more common in areas that have higher ultraviolet or UV levels. At present, the areas in the world with the highest numbers of such cases are South Africa and Australia, both of which have higher UV radiation levels than other areas.

Age is another risk factor associated with skin cancer. It is important to note however that while the symptoms of most types of skin cancers are detected at a later age, the damage to the skin that caused it likely occurred long before.

One of the more common causes of this type of cancer in recent years is exposure to UV rays via tanning booths. An increasingly popular trend the world over, this practice has actually been linked with the rise of the condition.

Finally, therapeutic radiation is also another risk factor for developing skin cancer, although such incidences are much less common.