The Canadian Cancer Society estimates that approximately 75,000 Canadians were diagnosed with skin cancer last year, and an estimated 270 people died from the disease. Non-melanoma skin cancers are the most common types of cancer diagnosed – and one of the easiest to prevent.
The two most common types of skin cancer are non-melanoma skin cancers: squamous cell cancer and basal cell cancer. While there's no one cause of these types of cancer, the Canadian Cancer Society says exposure to sunlight and having fair skin are the most common risk factors. Similarly, people who work, play or exercise in the sun for long periods of time are at greater risk of developing skin cancer.
The first sign of skin cancer is a change to your skin. The problem is that it can occur anywhere on the body (although it usually starts in areas that are exposed to the sun like the head, face, neck, hands, arms and legs) and not all skin cancers look the same.
Basal cell cancers often look like a bump or a little crater with a shiny or pearly surface, while squamous cell cancers are usually reddish and scaly. How can you tell if that funny looking mole, bump or open sore is skin cancer? Try looking for these symptoms:
Also, watch any moles on the skin that become asymmetrical or change colour. If you suspect a spot might be skin cancer, be sure to see your doctor as soon as possible.
Want to protect your skin and prevent skin cancer? Try these tips from the Canadian Cancer Society:
Watch the clock: Plan your outdoor activities before 11 a.m. or after 4 p.m. when the sun is not at its strongest, or any time of the day when the UV Index is three or less.
A journalist with more than 10 years experience, Alison’s work has appeared in a number of top Canadian publications, including glow, Oxygen, Canadian Running and more. She is the former editor of a number of well-respected Canadian and American trade journals and recipient of a Kenneth R. Wilson Gold Award of Excellence in feature article writing. She is a part-time faculty member at Sheridan College’s journalism department, as well as an avid runner and fitness enthusiast.