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6 Ways You Put Yourself at Risk for Skin Cancer

Written by Dr. Group, DC Founder

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer and over 3.5 million new instances occur every year in the U.S. alone. Many people still believe that skin cancer won’t happen to them, but the fact remains that it can happen to anyone. There are actually three major types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell cancer, and melanoma. Surprisingly enough, skin cancer is not just a result from too much sun.

Six Avoidable Risk Factors

While melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, squamous cell cancer also spreads and causes issues. Aside from the obvious, there are six avoidable ways in which you may be increasing your risks of skin cancer.

1. Nail Salon Lamps

Manicures can be a great way to keep your nails in shape but if you frequent the nail salon once a week or even more, you might be putting yourself at risk. Exposure to the lamps used to dry nails could potentially increase your risk of skin cancer due to the way the rays emitted from the lamps damage your skin. [1]

2. Indoor Tanning Beds

Many people still believe that indoor tanning beds are a healthier solution to regular sunlight, but the same rays that cause skin cancer in sunlight are also present in tanning beds. Some argue that indoor tanning is fine in moderation, but keep in mind that it can still potentially increase your risk of developing one of the three types of skin cancer. [2] Despite this, the ubiquity of tanning beds is so widespread that even college campuses offer tanning bed facilities for students. [3]

3. Facial Peels

Many people indulge in the benefits of facial rejuvenation in the form of facial peels, but if you are going to do so, you must be aware of the increased risk of skin cancer associated with these procedures. [4] The chemical TCA can act as a carcinogen increases a person’s risk for cancer, though there have not been human studies as of yet. An alternative to TCA chemical peels would be a salicylic acid peel or something similar.

4. Cheap Swimwear

Not all swimwear is created equal. Some of the more affordable options might seem like a good deal, but in a random inspection of brands, one quarter of the swimwear tested failed to meet quality standards. [5] The presence of excess formaldehyde is one thing that can cause a garment to fail inspection. Formaldehyde has been linked with causing allergies and certain forms of cancer.

5. Smoking

Everyone is, by now, aware of most of the health dangers associated with smoking cigarettes, cigars, hookah, etc. Risk factors include an increased risk of lung cancer, respiratory diseases, and more. As early as 2012, smoking has also been linked to a 52% increased risk for squamous cell skin cancer. [6] Though it’s not deadly like melanoma, a disease that kills 9,000 to 12,000 people a year, it is still a significant increase to a person’s risk for skin cancer and something we should all be aware of.

6. Limited Sunscreen

Even if you do have proper sunscreen habits for repeated sun exposure, sunscreen does not protect you fully from harmful UV rays. [7] Many people think that once they apply one coat of sunscreen, they are completely protected. This is false since sunscreen does melt away due to sweat, can wash off in water, and also wears off after a certain amount of time. Not to mention that chemical ingredients in conventional sunscreen can often do more harm than good. New ingredients could be added to enhance the effectiveness of sunscreen, but the FDA has not acted on approval despite pleas from dermatologists and skin cancer groups. [8]

How to Further Decrease Risk for Skin Cancer

From all of this evidence, one might think the only way to avoid skin cancer is to completely avoid the sun! This wouldn’t work out very well either since sunlight is the best source of vitamin D. It’s also been noted that people with mild symptoms of hypertension have lower blood pressure in the summer in comparison to the winter, [9] which suggests a correlation with sunlight and relieving symptoms of mild hypertension. While avoiding the sun and harsh artificial lighting is certainly not always practical (or healthy), it is important to find a balance. Also, be sure to consume a diet high in antioxidants, as these compounds can support skin health and combat free radicals associated with disease.

References (9)
  1. Seaman, Andrew M. Are nail salon UV lamps a skin cancer risk? Reuters. 2014.
  2. Tavernise, Sabrina. Indoor Training Poses Could Be Hazardous. New York Times. 2015.
  3. Bruzek, Alison. Campuses play host to tanning beds, despite skin cancer risk. NPR. 2014.
  4. KPRC. Are chemical peel users putting themselves at risk for cancer? KPRC (click2houston.com). 2014.
  5. Yue, Ma. Cancer chemical 4 times national standard found in swimwear. ShanghaiDaily.com 2014.
  6. Joelving, Frederik. Smoking tied to one type of skin cancer. Reuters. 2012.
  7. Briggs, Helen. Skin cancer: Sunscreen ‘not complete protection’. BBC News. 2014.
  8. Tillman, Jodie. Dermatologists and skin cancer groups urge FDA to act on new sunscreen ingredients. Tampa Bay Times. 2014.
  9. Medew, Julia. Skin cancer fears blinding people to health benefits of sunlight, say scientists. Fairfax Media. 2014.

†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.


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