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Who Gets Skin Cancer?
According to the American Cancer Society, more than one million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year, making it the most common type of cancer in the United States. It is estimated that 40 – 50% of Americans will have skin cancer at least once by the time they are 65. When caught early, people rarely die of skin cancer.
Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, accounts for less than 5% of all cases, but causes the most deaths. Overall, the lifetime risk of getting melanoma is one in 50 for whites; 1 in 1,000 for blacks and 1 in 200 for Hispanics.
The biggest risk factor for any type of skin cancer is ultraviolet light, particularly sunlight, especially when it leads to sunburn. Other risk factors include:
- Age – as it relates to long-term exposure to the sun.
- Appearance – although any skin is at risk, people who have red or blond hair, fair skin, freckles or light colored eyes are at highest risk.
- Family history – particularly a family history of melanoma, increases risk.
- Recurrence – a person who develops skin cancer is at risk of developing the same cancer again, even in another place.
- Employment – working around coal tar, arsenic compounds, creosote, pitch and paraffin oil increase the risk.
- Skin injury or condition – skin that has been scarred or burned could be at higher risk as could skin that has actinic keratosis (also called solar or senile keratosis), which is a precancerous condition of thick, scaly patches.
The best prevention for skin cancer is to avoid prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light (sunlight), or to wear protective clothing and/or sunscreen.