Skin Cancer In Teens - Everything You Need To Know‏


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Has your teen developed a brown and flat scar-like lesion on his face of late? Does he have a mole that changes color and bleeds? Well, if you can relate your adolescent to the above situations it is time to give skin cancer a thought!

Skin is the largest organ of the human body and provides protection from sunlight, infection, and injury. It also controls the body temperature and stores fat and water. Do you know that skin cancer is the most common type of cancer and can affect teens too? Read on to know more about skin cancer in teens, causes, symptoms and prevention.

What Is Skin Cancer?

Our skin comprises of several layers and skin cancer is most likely to begin in the outer-most layer or epidermis that consists of squamous and basal cells and melanocytes. The disease usually affects those parts of the body that enjoy exposure to the sun, but it can also occur in any other part of the body (1).

What Are The Different Types Of Skin Cancer?

You can broadly classify skin cancer into two types:

  • Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer: It responds to treatment and does not usually spread to other parts of the body.
  • Melanoma: It is a severe type of skin cancer and tends to invade nearby tissues. Studies say one person dies of melanoma cancer every hour.

Merkel cell carcinoma, Kaposi sarcoma, and lymphoma are very rare types of skin cancer (2).

[ Read: Lung Cancer In Teens ]

What Causes Skin Cancer In Teens?

Skin cancer occurs primarily due to exposure to ultraviolet radiation in the form of sunlight or lights in the tanning beds. Exposure to toxic substances such as arsenic and a weakened immune system can also cause skin cancer (3).

Symptoms Of Skin Cancer?

Here are some of the common symptoms of skin cancer in teenagers:

1. Basal Cell Carcinoma may appear as:

  • A pearly or waxy bump
  • A flat brown scar-like lesion

2. Squamous Cell Carcinoma may appear as:

  • A firm, red nodule
  • A flat lesion with a scaly surface

3. Melanoma signs include:

  • A large brownish spot with darker speckles
  • A bleeding mole that changes in color, size or feel
  • A small lesion with an irregular border and red, white, blue or blue-black patches (4).
  • Dark lesions that appear on palms, soles, fingertips or toes, or on mucous membranes lining the mouth, nose, vagina or anus.

[ Read: Ways To Deal With Skin Problems In Teens ]

Tips For Self-Examination:

Cancers among teenagers go unnoticed, as skin examination is not a common practice, and there is no set guideline for the same. Remember, a regular self-examination can help your teen spot early signs of teenage skin cancer. Here are a few things he should keep in mind:

  • Experts recommend that your teen should do a head to toe self-examination. He should use a mirror to examine his nose, mouth, lips, ears, etc. He should also use a hair dryer for thoroughly inspecting his scalp.
  • He should note any new mole or growth.
  • He should also watch out for signs of change in any existing growth.
  • He should also keep an eye open for itchy patches that bleed and do not heal quickly (5).

Ask your teen to visit a skin specialist if he finds anything unusual, as skin cancers are curable if detected early.

[ Read: Symptoms Of Colon Cancer In Teens ]

Tips For Preventing Teenage Skin Cancer:

Some simple tips can help protect your teen from the threat of skin cancer:

  • Even a moderate increase in exposure to the harsh rays of the sun spurs the growth of pigmented moles and multiplies the risk of developing skin cancer. A regular use of broad spectrum sunscreen lotion with an SPF of 15 or more can reduce the risk of cancer by almost 50%. Remind your teen to apply a sunscreen 30 minutes before leaving the house. Ask him to reapply it every two hours.
  • One episode of sunburn is enough to double your teen’s chances of suffering from skin cancer. Ask him to cover himself with clothing, hats, umbrellas, and sunglasses to stay sun-safe.
  • Ask your teen to avoid visiting a tan booth as his skin is more vulnerable than that of an adult. His cells are constantly dividing and changing rapidly and are susceptible to skin cancer. In fact, people who use the tanning bed before 35 years of age increase their risk of suffering from melanoma by 75%! A research reinstated the fact that using indoor tanning devices increased the risk of skin cancers – 2.5 times for squamous and 1.5 times for basal cell carcinoma in comparison to nonusers. (6) On account of the increased risk of cancer due to tanning booths, many states in America have banned its use for teens under 14 years of age. While other states demand a parental consent to allow teens between 14 and 17 years to use it.

[ Read: Eczema In Teens ]

As mentioned earlier, skin cancer is best cured if detected early. Self-help is considered the best help and thus, educating your teen about the signs of skin cancer and methods to protect himself can reduce his risk of suffering from the dreadful disease.

If you have any other information on skin cancer in teens do write to us.

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