Over a 10-year period, the number of diagnoses of two nonmelanoma skin cancers has increased at an alarming rate.
A Mayo Clinic-led team of researchers report that between 2000 and 2010, more adults — mostly women — were diagnosed with either basal cell carcinoma (BCC) or squamous cell carcinoma (SCC, also referred to as cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma).
According to their findings, the number of BCC cases increased by 145 percent. As for the number of SCC patients, the rates skyrocketed by 263 percent.
Women aged 30-49 had the greatest increase in BCC diagnoses, while women 40-59 and 70-79 experienced the greatest increase in SCC.
“Despite the fact that sunscreens and cautionary information have been widely available for more than 50 years, we saw the emergence of tanning beds in the 1980s, and tanning — indoors or out — was a common activity for many years,” stated senior study author Christine Baum, MD, a Mayo Clinic dermatologist, in a press release.
“I’m not surprised by the study since I see a lot of skin cancer in my office,” Shannon Trotter, a dermatologist at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, tells Yahoo Beauty. “Multiple factors, like better awareness and earlier diagnosis, use of tanning beds, and increased sun exposure with the thinning of the ozone layer may contribute to these findings.”
BCC is the most common type of skin cancer — the Skin Cancer Foundation states that more than 4 million cases of BCC are diagnosed in the U.S. each year — and begins in the basal cells (where new skin cells are produced). It will typically present itself as a pink pearly bump on an area that is exposed to the sun, such as the face and neck, and is thought to be caused by long-term exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, according to the Mayo Clinic.
SCC, the second most common form of skin cancer — more than 1 million patients in the U.S. are diagnosed annually with this condition — usually appears in the form of a wart, which may crust or bleed. And based on statistics from the Skin Cancer Foundation, as many as 8,800 people die from this disease each year.
“Both BCC and SCC can also present as a pink scaly patch or a sore on the skin that doesn’t heal,” says Trotter. While both cancers are unlikely to spread beyond the tumor site, “they can destroy skin tissue where they grow and interfere with function,” Trotter continues. “And most BCCs and SCCs can be cured with surgical removal.”
Now that spring is here and millions of people will be spending time outdoors, Trotter emphasizes the importance of wearing sunscreen every day. “Buy one that you will use — find one that you like the smell and feel of,” she stresses.
“Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 30 about a half-hour before going out into the sun, and reapply every two hours.”
However, Trotter adds that sunscreen alone is not enough. “Wear sun protective clothing, which can be as simple
as a hat, sunglasses, longer sleeves, pants, or clothing with protection built in, known as UPF or ultraviolet protection factor,” concludes Trotter.
And even if you’re spending more time in the car than on the beach, protection is still necessary.
“UV rays can penetrate car windows and exposed skin ─ even when the sun isn’t shining,” stated Baum in the press release. “UV rays bounce around under the clouds, off the snow, buildings, and more, causing damage ─ even on gray days.”
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