Skin Cancer: Who Are At Risk?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, an estimated 1 out of 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Characterized by abnormal skin cell growth, it is the most common cancer in the United States, with more than 9,000 being diagnosed every day, and can affect anyone, irrespective of skin color.

"It occurs when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells triggers mutations, or genetic defects, that cause the cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors," Dr. Saya Obayan, a Texas-based board-certified dermatologist and spokesperson for the Skin Cancer Foundation, said in a Fox News interview. "This damage is often caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds."

There are three most common types of skin cancer: basal skin carcinoma, squamous skin carcinoma, and melanoma. While the first two are easily curable if detected early, the latter is difficult to treat, and can be deadly if it spreads deeper into the skin or other parts of the body. In fact, the majority of skin cancer deaths are caused by melanoma. Other, less common types include Merkel cell carcinoma, Sebaceuous gland carcinoma, and Kaposi sarcoma.

Obayan went on to say who are at risk of developing skin cancer:

Those With Tanned Skin 

A history of tanning bed use, even only once, increases the risk of skin cancer. In fact, those who use a tanning bed before the age of 35 increases their risk of skin cancer by 75 percent. Skin cancer risk is also exacerbated by a history of sunburns. Those who have a history of more than five sunburns have double the risk. However, it does not in any way mean that one is safe just because he does not burn. Tanning is just one way for the skin to prevent further injury through an increase in skin pigment, which means that skin cell damage has already been sustained. 

Those With Very Fair Skin 

People with extremely fair skin are in danger of getting hit by skin damage as a result of radiation from ultraviolet rays. Compared to Caucasian patients, people of color tend to be less susceptible to UV damage, owing to the greater amounts of melanin produced by darker skin. Even with these comparisons, however, both are still at risk. When they do develop skin cancer, it does happen at a later and more deadly stage.

Those With A Family History Of Skin Cancer

Genetics also play a role in skin cancer -- more specifically in melanoma, its most serious and deadliest form. An estimated 1 out of every 10 patients diagnosed with melanoma has a family member with a history of the disease. Those who have relatives (parents, siblings) that had been diagnosed with melanoma in the past are in a melanoma-prone family.

Skin Cancer Rates Skin cancer rates among people in the U.S. and U.K. continue to rise. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock