We currently understand a number of causes of skin cancer. These aspects can therefore be understood, avoided or educated about. However there are still some unanswered questions surrounding their development.
At Ministry of Skin we will help you to identify some of your individual risk factors and advise you how you can protect your skin and prevent damage.
Ministry of Skin is a RACGP accredited clinic.
From all the research and experience we have gained over the years we understand the current risk factors to getting skin cancer are:
1. Sun Exposure
95- 99% of skin cancers are caused by sun exposure. Sun exposure can be classed as the number of burning episodes or accumulated time in the sun over the years.
The sun emits 3 types of Ultra Violet (UV) radiation that can damage the DNA in our our skin cells. This damaged DNA results in an increased risk of skin cancer. The first sign of sun over exposure and skin DNA damage, is tanning. A tan occurs in an attempt to prevent further DNA damage and so it is not a healthy sign. Further exposure damages collagen and Vitamin A causing wrinkles, skin sagging and brown patches ie photo-ageing. UV rays can also damage eyes and suppress the immune system, reducing your ability to fight off the above mentioned changes and other insults occurring. The most worrying result of damaged DNA is an increased risk of a fatal skin cancer.
Australia has some of the highest UV levels in the world. The 3 types of UV radiation emitted by the sun are UVA,UVB and UVC.
Our senses cannot see or feel UV light as its wavelength is shorter than visible light. The suns warmth is caused by infrared radiation not UV. There is also a huge variation of UV levels during the seasons, across Australia and dependent on the weather.
95% of UV radiation reaching the earth is UVA. Although less intense than UVB rays, they are present with relatively equal intensity throughout daylight hours all year round and can also penetrate clouds and glass, so our skin usually gets a higher exposure to them. They also penetrate deeper and more efficiently into the skin. They play a major role in skin ageing (photo-ageing) and wrinkling and evidence is now showing that they contributes to and may even initiate the development of skin cancers.
UVB rays cause direct DNA damage and therefore play a major role in skin cancer development. UVB rays are the main cause of skin reddening and sunburn and hence damages the skins outer layers. Its intensity varies by season, location and time of day. It is most intense when the sun is at its brightest – ie. Midday – 4pm during the summer months. They cannot penetrate glass.
UVC has a very short wavelength and so most is absorbed by the ozone layer and does not reach the earth.
Solariums emit UVA and UVB radiation, both of which are known to cause skin cancer. People who use solariums are 2.5 times more likely to get a squamous cell carcinoma and exposure in youth can increase risk of melanoma by 75%.
Due to the differences in the UV radiation emitted from the sun, sun exposure can occur on cooler overcast days, through windows at home or in the car, and on hotter sunny days. Sun protection measures should therefore be put into action throughout most of all days.
2. Family History
Having a family member of skin cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer or pancreatic cancer can increase your risk of developing a skin cancer. Regular skin checks are highly recommended if you have a family or personal history of the above.
3. Other individual risks
- Skin Type ie pale skin
- Fair hair colour
- Blue eyes
- Older age
- Multiple moles of different shapes and sizes.