Melanoma is skin deep: Marion woman takes health in own hands

Marion County Relay for Life is Aug. 4-5

Staff reporter

One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime.

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of cancer and rarely is fatal but can be disfiguring.

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common form of skin cancer with more than 250,000 cases diagnosed annually and 2,500 deaths.

BCC and SCC are the two major forms of non-melanoma skin cancer. Between 40 and 50 percent of Americans who live to age 65 will have either skin cancer at least once.

About 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to ultraviolet radiation.

Melanoma is a malignant tumor that originates in melanocytes, the cells which produce the pigment melanin that colors skin, hair, and eyes.

Everyone is at some risk for melanoma but increased risk depends on sun exposure, the number of moles or freckles on the skin, skin type, and family history.

Both UVA and UVB rays are dangerous to the skin. Blistering sunburns in early childhood increase risk but cumulative exposure also is a factor. People who live in locations that get more sunlight (Florida, Hawaii, and Australia) have more risk.

Tanning beds or booths also can increase the risk of developing melanoma and other skin cancers.

Surprisingly, the majority of people diagnosed with melanoma are white men over the age of 50.

The percentage of women under the age of 40 with basal cell carcinoma has tripled in the past 30 years, while the rate of squamous cell cancer has increased four times.