What Causes Skin Cancer?

According to the National Cancer Institute, more than a million people in the country are diagnosed with skin cancer every year, which makes it the most common type of cancer in the United States. Most forms of skin cancer are most treatable when they are found early and properly treated. Conservative treatments that preserve more healthy tissue are often possible in these early stages, but more extensive treatment may be needed for skin cancers that have metastasized, or spread.

If you have been diagnosed with skin cancer or are concerned about your risk, you may be asking, “What causes skin cancer?” Ultraviolet radiation is the primary cause of skin cancer. UVA and UVB radiation are both present in the sun’s rays but can also be found in sunlamps and tanning booths. However, the answer as to what causes skin cancer may not be as simple as, “the sun.” That is because other factors have also been identified as being linked to skin cancer.

Having many moles is associated with developing melanoma. However, most moles are benign. Even dysplastic, or abnormal, moles are generally benign in nature. However, in some cases, these benign moles can experience changes that trigger the development of melanoma cells. What causes skin cancer in these cases often includes not only UV exposure that triggers changes in the cells’ DNA , but also genetic influence. Melanomas can run in families and may include genetic mutations that significantly increase the risk of developing skin cancer.

Other skin cancer risk factors can include:

•    Naturally light skin tone
•    Naturally blonde or red hair
•    Naturally blue or green eyes
•    A history of sunburns
•    A history of indoor tanning or regular tanning
•    Skin that easily burns or freckles in response to sun exposure

Regularly evaluating your own skin can help you catch early changes that can be cause for concern, but routine skin exams are also essential. Most people can benefit from an annual exam, but if you have many risk factors, more frequent exams may be necessary. If you would like to know more about what causes skin cancer, contact our office to schedule your consultation with Dr. Peyman Ghasri, our Los Angeles dermatologist.