Skin cancer comes from more than one source, there are the UV rays to blame, but is skin cancer genetic?
Your eye color, height, and even your taste in food are all influenced by your genes.
In addition to these defining qualities, genetics may have a role in a lot of illnesses, including skin cancer.
What is skin cancer?
Skin cancer is the abnormal growth of skin cells that is most often seen on sun-exposed skin.
Even if you don’t spend much time outside in the sun, you may still be at risk of having skin cancer.
Types of skin cancer
Skin cancer is broken down into different types based on the type of skin cells that are affected by cancer.
These types of skin cancer are most common:
This kind of skin cancer is less prevalent, but it is more aggressive.
Melanoma typically affects melanocytes the cells that give your skin its color.
If melanoma is not discovered and treated early on, it is far more likely to spread to other parts of your body.
Keratinocyte carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer, and it can be broken down into two groups:
Squamous cell carcinoma
It starts in the squamous cells, which are situated just above the basal cells in the epidermis.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma: It affects the basal cells on the outermost layer of the skin. 80% of skin cancers are basal cell carcinoma.
It’s also the least dangerous type of skin cancer.
These types of skin cancer are more likely to appear on parts of your body that are often exposed to the sun, like your head and neck.
They can spread to other parts of your body, but they’re less likely to do so if they’re caught and treated early.
Other types of skin cancer, which aren’t very common, are:
- Merkel cell carcinoma
- sebaceous carcinoma
- cutaneous T-cell lymphoma
- dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans (DFSP)
Is Skin Cancer Genetic?
We’ve mentioned the sun as one of the causes of skin cancer but your genetics, or family history, can also play a role in getting some types of skin cancer.
10% of all patients diagnosed with melanoma are related to someone who has had the disease at some point in their lives, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
So if someone in your family like a parent, sister, or brother, has had melanoma, you are more likely to get it.
If a close biological family, such as a parent, sister, or brother, has had melanoma, you are at a higher risk.
In some cases, skin cancers can be passed down from parent to child.
More than half of melanomas are inherited and caused by pathogenic gene variants or changes in a gene sequence, according to a study.
Nonmelanoma skin cancers are also linked to a number of genetic disorders.
These tumors tend to be identified at a young age, both bilaterally and/or several times in a family member’s lineage if they’re hereditary.
So, if you have a family history of melanoma and a lot of moles, you are at a higher risk of melanoma.
Unusual moles coupled with a family history of cancer are called familial atypical multiple mole melanomas syndrome (FAMMM).
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, melanoma is 17.3 times more common in those with the FAMMM syndrome than in those without it.
People with fair or pale complexions are more likely to get melanoma and of course, you owe your complexion to your genes.
People born with the following characteristics are more likely to have skin cancer:
- light-colored eyes
- fair skin with freckles
- blonde or red hair
What else can increase your risk of skin cancer?
Several types of cancer can be caused by a mix of genetic and environmental factors.
Even though your genes can make you more likely to get skin cancer, the environment plays a bigger role.
Sun exposure is the main cause of skin cancer.
Tanning beds, booths, and sunlamps also give off UV rays that can damage your skin.
Skin cancer is linked to your lifetime exposure to UV radiation, according to the National Human Genome Research Institute.
That is why, despite the fact that the sun may harm your skin from a young age, you may not have skin cancer till you’re 50.
The sun’s UV radiation may alter or destroy the DNA composition of your skin cells, causing cancer cells to multiply.
People who live in sunny areas with a lot of UV radiation from the sun are more likely to have skin cancer.
Other risk factors include:
- Genetic disorders, including xeroderma pigmentosa and Gorlin-Goltz syndrome
- arsenic exposure
- lowered immune response
How to prevent skin cancer
You may not be at high risk for skin cancer but you should still protect your skin from UV damage.
If you have a family history of skin cancer, or you’re fair-skinned, take extra care to protect yourself from the sun.
Here’s how to prevent skin cancer
1. Limit your time in direct sunlight
If you’re going to be outside, stay in the shade, particularly between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., when the sun’s UV rays are at their strongest levels.
2. Use SPF
Use a board spectrum mineral sunscreen with SPF 30 and above as recommended by the AAD.
Broad-spectrum means it blocks both UVA and UVB rays.
3. Wear a hat
A wide-brimmed hat can protect your head, face, ears, and neck even more.
4. Cover up
Clothes can protect you from the sun’s harmful rays. Wear clothes that are light and let your skin breathe.
5. Always reapply sunscreen
Apply sunscreen every 2 hours especially if you’re sweating, swimming, or exercising.
6. Go for check-ups
If you have a family history of melanoma or other skin cancers, tell your doctor.
How does skin cancer usually begin?
Overexposure to sunlight is the leading cause of skin cancer, particularly when it results in sunburn and blistering.
The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays break the DNA in your skin, causing abnormal cells to grow.
These abnormal cells divide fast and in a distorted way generating a mass of cancer cells.
Skin cancer is primarily caused by the sun and other sources of radiation like tanning beds and sunlamps but, a family history of skin cancer puts you at a higher risk of having skin cancer.
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