Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, affecting up to 50% of adults by the time they reach age 65. Anyone can get skin cancer, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Though ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun are most often blamed for the skin cell mutations that lead to cancerous lesions, your genetics may play a role too. Certain inherited genes may place you at risk of developing melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.
Since May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, our team of experts at Dermatology Associates of Central NJ want to share what we know about the link between genetics and skin cancer.
About skin cancer
Skin cancer is a type of cancer that causes abnormal growth in mutated skin cells, creating cancerous-like lesions. There are many types of skin cancer, but the most common include:
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)
SCC is a type of skin cancer that affects squamous cells, which are one of the three types of cells that make up your outer layer of skin. SCC most often develops on sun-exposed areas of your body.
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)
BCC is the most common type of skin cancer and affects the basal cells found in the outer layer of your skin. The cancerous lesions develop from damage to the DNA from UV light that causes the cells to grow at an uncontrolled rate.
Melanoma is a type of cancer that develops in melanocytes, which are the pigment-producing cells in your skin. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer because it grows quickly and invades other tissues and organs. Finding and treating melanoma during the early stages increases your chances of a full recovery.
Genetics and risk of skin cancer
Though anyone can develop any type of skin cancer, researchers have found a genetic link to the development of melanoma. Known as familial melanoma, it’s a set of certain genes that may increase your risk of developing this more serious type of skin cancer.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, researchers have found 10 inherited gene mutations that increase a person’s risk of developing melanoma and other types of cancer. It’s estimated that as many as 12% of people with melanoma have these inherited gene mutations.
If melanoma runs in your family, you can talk with a genetic counselor about getting tested for the genetic mutations.
How to reduce the risk of skin cancer
Having familial melanoma doesn’t affect how we treat your cancer. However, if you have a genetic mutation or concerns about melanoma because it seems to run in your family, there are steps you can take to protect your skin and your health.
Anyone at risk of developing skin cancer should conduct monthly skin checks to look for signs of abnormal lesions. With melanoma, we use the ABCDE acronym to identify abnormal moles that may be cancerous, such as:
- A for asymmetry
- B for border irregularities
- C for color inconsistencies
- D for diameter larger than a pencil eraser
- E for evolving, or changing over time
Any mole with these characteristics should be evaluated right away. Finding and treating melanoma, whether your skin cancer is inherited or not, gives you the best chance of a full recovery.
We also recommend you avoid tanning beds and take extra precautions to protect your skin when out in the sun if you have familial melanoma or a family history of skin cancer.
For melanoma, our primary treatment is surgery to remove the lesion. We then refer you to an oncologist to discuss additional treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, or immunotherapy.
With May being National Skin Cancer Month and summer right around the corner, there’s no better time than now to schedule your skin cancer evaluation at our office.
Schedule your appointment by calling the office in Old Bridge, Freehold, or Union, New Jersey, booking online today.