Skin cancer is the most frequent form of cancer among Canadians,
accounting for one third of all cases. A projected 61,000 cases of
non-melanoma skin cancer will be diagnosed in Canada in 1997. An estimated
3200 new cases of malignant melanoma, a potentially deadly form of skin
cancer, will be diagnosed.
People born today face an estimated 1 in 7 chance of developing skin
cancer at some time during their lives. The incidence continues to increase
and is due mainly to changes in the ozone layer, increased involvement in
outdoor activities, wearing less clothing, and our incessant pursuit of a
Three Types of Skin Cancer
Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most common skin cancer which
thankfully grows slowly and rarely spreads. It is usually found on the
face and other exposed areas.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma is found less frequently than the
basal cell carcinoma and can occasionally spread rapidly. It is
potentially fatal if ignored and is most commonly found on the lower
lip, ears and hands.
Malignant Melanoma is the most serious of the skin cancers.
It often grows and spreads rapidly and, if left untreated, can invade
lymph nodes and other vital organs. It is most often found on upper back
and shoulders in men and legs in women. It develops in the pigment cells
of the of the skin (melanocytes) and its incidence is doubling every ten
Risk Factors for Skin Cancer
Blonde, red, light-brown hair
Light-coloured eyes - blue, green, grey
Large number of moles
Long periods of sun exposure
Shorter periods of intense sun exposure
Tendency to burn
Use of tanning devices
A skin growth that increases in size and appears scaly, translucent,
tan brown, black or multi-coloured.
A mole or birthmark that changes colour, increases in size, texture
or thickness and is irregular in outline.
A spot or growth that continues to itch, hurt, crust, scab, erode or
An open sore or wound on the skin that does not heal or persists for
more than four weeks, or heals and then reopens.
Skin cancer is almost always preventable. It has been called the
"classic lifestyle disease of the twentieth century."
Keep babies under one year old out of direct sunlight.
For adults and children over one year of age, liberally apply
a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. Apply
evenly to all exposed body areas 15-30 minutes before you go out into
the sun. Reapply according to instructions. Recent studies show that use
of sunscreen can help to prevent squamous cell carcinoma but has not
been effective in reducing the rate of the more serious malignant
Cover up your head with a wide brimmed hat and wear
loose-fitting, tightly knit clothing to cover up your arms and legs.
Protect your eyes with UV-rated sunglasses.
Plan outdoor activities for before 11:00 a.m. or after 4:00
p.m. to avoid peak UV exposure.
Be aware that some prescription and non-prescription drugs
can cause sun sensitivity. Always check with your doctor or pharmacist.
Remember that up to 80% of the sunís rays can go through light
clouds, mist and fog and that water, sand, cement and snow reflect 85%
of the sunís harmful rays. Shade yourself whenever possible.
Sunburns in early life increase our lifetime risk of skin cancer. In
fact, one severe burn is believed to double the risk. The skin does not
forget, and the damage caused by sun exposure accumulates over a lifetime.
We all need to increase our awareness of ultraviolet radiation and decrease
Know your risk
Avoid ultraviolet light as much as possible
Understand the importance of early detection
Perform self examinations
If you would like more information on skin cancer or a speaker for
your group, contact the Grey Bruce Health Unit at 1-800-263-3456.