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    Melanoma/Skin Cancer Health Center

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    The Sun and Skin Cancer

    Spending too much time in the sun gives you wrinkles and makes you more likely to get skin cancer.

    There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun (all year long, and in any weather) or tanning beds is linked to all of them.

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    I didn’t grow up tanning. I have fair skin and red hair, and I didn’t like lying out in the sun or even going to the beach. And when I was exposed to the sun, I didn’t get tan. I just got a little pink and freckled. In fact, I got my first tan when I went to Florida in 2001. I was 17 years old, and I was really excited about how I looked. When I returned home, I started going to a tanning salon to keep up the color. Over the next two and a half years I returned once a week. I wasn’t super dark;...

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    Almost all skin cancers -- 95% -- are basal cell and squamous cell cancers. Also called non-melanoma skin cancers, they are highly curable when treated early.

    Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer. It starts in skin pigment cells called melanocytes.

    Early treatment greatly improves your chances of beating it.

    Left untreated, it can spread to other parts of your body and become hard to control.

    Who Is at Risk?

    Anyone can get skin cancer. The people mostly likely to get it are those with:

    • Fair or freckled skin that burns easily.
    • Light eyes.
    • Blond or red hair.

    Darker-skinned people can also get any type of skin cancer, although it's less likely for them than for pale-skinned people.

    You're also at risk if:

    • You've had skin cancer before.
    • It runs in your family.
    • You work outside or live in a sunny climate.

    Your risk for melanoma rises if:

    • You've had severe sunburns and have more than 30 large, irregularly-shaped moles.
    • You use tanning beds.

    What Are the Symptoms of Skin Cancer?

    The most common warning sign of skin cancer is a change on the skin, typically a new mole or spot, or a change in an existing mole.

    Basal cell carcinoma may show up as a small, smooth, pearly or waxy bump on the face, ears, or neck, or as a flat pink, red, or brown lesion on the trunk or arms and legs.

    Squamous cell carcinoma can appear as a firm, red bump, or as a rough, scaly flat spot that may bleed and become crusty.

    Melanoma usually appears as a pigmented patch or bump but can also be red or white. It may resemble a normal mole, but usually has a more irregular appearance.

    "ABCDE" is a good way to remember what to look for:

    • Asymmetry. The shape of one half doesn't match the other.
    • Border. The edges are ragged or blurred.
    • Color. It has uneven shades of brown, black, tan, red, white, or blue.
    • Diameter. There's been a significant change in size.
    • Evolving. This means any new spot or mole changing in color, shape, or size.
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