Skin cancer is an unusual growth of skin cells and normally forms on sun-exposed skin. This type of cancer, however, can also develop on parts of the skin that do not normally receive much sun exposure. Three main types of skin cancer exist: melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma.
The best way to avoid the development of skin cancer is to limit or avoid exposure to UV radiation. Since early detection leads to the best outcomes, you should check your skin regularly for strange changes.
Although numerous risk factors exist for melanoma, it is not clearly understood precisely how they may lead to cancer. One example of this is the fact that some moles do not develop into cancer, while others do. Scientists have detected certain genetic changes within mole cells that can make them develop into melanoma cells. However, they still do not know why certain moles turn into cancer, but most do not.
Ultraviolet (UV) rays are one major cause of melanoma cancer. These rays are known to cause damage to skin cell DNA. In turn, this can affect some genes that govern how skin cells function. When the genes become dysfunctional, the cells that are affected might become cancerous.
Exposure to UV rays normally comes from sunlight. Others are from sources like tanning beds. It is not normally known when the DNA damage that causes cancer occurs. Much of the damage may have occurred years before the cancer became known, while some may have occurred many years prior to the development of cancer. Young adults and children often receive a large amount of sun exposure that does not develop into cancer until years or even decades later.
Most genetic alterations in melanoma cells are not passed down genetically but are due to sunlight exposure. Certain people also have skin cells that are unable to properly repair DNA that has been damaged and are more apt to develop melanoma as a result.
When melanomas are caused by genetics, mutations occur that significantly increase the odds that melanoma is passed from one generation to the next. Inherited melanomas usually involve tumor suppressor gene changes that keep them from properly controlling cell growth, leading to skin cancer.
A number of other genetic alterations have been linked to melanoma also. Some have been found to be fitting targets for cancer-fighting drugs. Almost half of melanoma cases are due to a genetic change that is not inherited. It is believed to happen while the melanoma is still developing.
To learn more about what causes skin cancer, or to have a skin cancer exam, contact Integrated Dermatology of Coral Gables. During a consultation at our office in Coral Gables, our friendly staff will be more than willing to answer any questions or address any concerns you may have. Our practice is dedicated to helping patients prevent and treat cancer. Contact us today to schedule your appointment to learn more.