skin cancer awareness month

Skin Cancer | Understand why UV protection matters

 Disclaimer : This page contains affiliate links to products.  We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.



According to the Skin Cancer Foundation,  "1 in 5 Americans will develop a Skin Cancer by the age of 70." 


Why do I hear so much about skin cancer?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, skin cancer is the MOST common cancer in the United States.  Take a moment to think about that.  We hear so much about other cancers but may not always stop to consider that skin cancer is more common than any other cancer in the U.S.

In spite of being the most common type of cancer diagnosed, skin cancer is also considered the most preventable.  

What are the different types of skin cancer?

This question is best answered by breaking these down in a table.



Skin Cancer Type

Cell of Origination



Clinical Presentation

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Keratinocytes in basal layer of epidermis

°UV exposure


°Skin with a tendency to burn easier than tan

°Older age



new cases/yr in the US

°Pearly somewhat translucent papule

°Pink scaling plaque

°Pigmented pearly nodule

°Open non-healing sore

°Papule with rolled borders and an indented center

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Keratinocytes in the epidermis

°UV exposure


°Skin with a tendency to burn easier than tan

°Older age

2nd most common form of skin cancer

~1.8M new cases/year in the US

°Pink scaling papule or plaque

°Red raised nodule with central scab or crust

°Eroded plaque

°Wartlike growth


Melanocytes in the epidermis

°Combination of genetic and environmental factors

°UV exposure


~100,000 new cases/ year annually in the US

°Pigmented flat or raised spot


°New or changing mole

°Pink or erythematous papule or patch

Merkel Cell Carcinoma

Merkel cells in the deepest layer of the epidermis and attach to nerves in dermis

°UV light

°Merkel Cell Polyomavirus (MCV)

~2,000 annually in US

°Red papule or nodule



*Lymphomas and Langerhans cell histiocytosis will be covered in another post.

I do not even tend to get sunburns, can I really get skin cancer?


Although UV exposure can play a significant role in the development of several skin cancers, it is not the only cause.  There are several genes, for example, responsible for increased susceptibility to the development of skin cancer in some people.  It is also important to recognize the role that chronic UV exposure, even without a true sunburn, can cause cumulative damage to the DNA of cells increasing our risk of skin cancer.  

Could I still get skin cancer if I never had a sunburn?

UV can directly damage the DNA of cells to induce the formation of skin cancer. It may also indirectly trigger skin cancers by impacting the effect of immunosuppression and its role in preventing skin cancer. Chronic UV exposure, even without a sunburn, can potentially cause this.  

Believe it or not, there is a slight left-sidedness to skin cancer with 52% occurring on the left side.  There is suspicion that driving and car window exposure can lead to chronic UV exposure without  burn and place us at an increased risk of skin cancer.


How is skin cancer diagnosed?

Finding a skin cancer is a team effort.  The team consists of you, your family or friends, and your doctors.


  1. You: Check your skin monthly for any new or changing moles, nonhealing spots, or pink inflamed spots. This can be overwhelming if you have lots of freckles or spots but do not let it be.  Get a general sense of your “normal” - the types of spots that you tend to have.  Look for the “ugly duckling” in the group- the one that does not look like the rest.  If you see something like this, get it checked out.  Also, be mindful of new spots, changing spots, nonhealing spots, or inflamed spots.
  2. Your family and/or friends: There are some hard to look at areas on our body- our back, back of the neck, scalp, back of our thighs and calves, etc.  Buddy up to have someone you trust to help check these areas.  If you do not have someone you trust, then it is important to work with your doctor.
  3. Your doctors:  An annual skin cancer screening should be on everyone’s to-do list.  Checking the skin involves just a visual examination of your skin from head to toe.  There is no radiation exposure, no needles, no pain. It just requires looking closely at each spot and even closer with a dermatoscope when needed.  


Remember, the only person who can gauge change in a spot is you.  Your doctor will only see these at points in time.  This is why a team effort is important.

What treatment options are there for skin cancer?

The treatment options for skin cancer depend on the:


  • Type of skin cancer
  • Stage of development
  • Location on the body


Although many spots can be treated surgically, other treatment options do exist. These include but are not limited to cryotherapy, topical chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.  Talk to your doctor about your options and concerns so that you can find a solution that addresses the skin cancer medically as well as alleviates any concerns that you may have.

Myth or not: Skin of Color does not get skin cancer? 



The most important myth to debunk when it comes to skin of color is the myth that we do not get skin cancer. This is simply not true and is very concerning to me as a Dermatologist.  The reality is that although it is true that the incidence may not be as high as amongst lighter skin types, skin cancer still does occur and is on the rise.  The most concerning aspect of this myth is that it is also true that people of color are often diagnosed later with a poorer prognosis because either the patient or their doctor is simply not thinking about skin cancer.  We need to extend the same education of sun safe behaviors and the red flags when it comes to early skin cancer detection!


Dr. ILYAS discusses skin myths with



According to the Skin Cancer Foundation,  "More people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the U.S. than all other cancers combined." 



Why is skin cancer so important to me?


Because when you spend years diagnosing and treating thousands of precancerous and cancerous spots you realize that there has to be more that we can do for prevention.


According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, more people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year than ALL OTHER CANCERS COMBINED.


It is my mission to provide better more effective options for UV protection that take into account the practical barriers to effective sun protection.


According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, "Only 20 to 30 percent of melanomas are found in existing moles, while 70 to 80 percent arise on apparently normal skin."⁠ ⁠

Understanding this statistic is important to put into context why we perform skin cancer screenings and follow for changes.


What are the ABCDEs I hear about?

Remember the ABCDEs as a guide to evaluating spots:⁠ ⁠




If the spot is folded in half does one side match the other side.⁠



Are there any notches, irregular or blurred borders?⁠



Are there any variations in color through the mole from brown to black and even red, pink, white or blue?⁠



Is it larger than 6 mm in size (pencil head eraser in size)? 



Change is one of the most important criteria to consider and one that I encourage patients to recognize. This is something that may be more evident to patients than to your doctor so it is important to point out moles or spots that are catching your attention. ⁠ ⁠


Please consider adding annual skin cancer screenings to your preventative health care routine. ⁠ ⁠ May is Skin Cancer Awareness month and the perfect opportunity to get your skin exam in before heading out to sunnier days!⁠ ⁠ Schedule your skin cancer screening today!








Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.