June 12, 2012 Dr. Lawrence Jaeger is a board certified dermatologist who has a practice in New York. Dr Lawrence Jaeger specializes in the treatment of all skin, hair and nail disorders including all skin growths. How Does the Sun Change My Skin? Exposure to the sun causes: Pre-cancerous (actinic keratosis) and cancerous (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma) skin lesions – due to decreases in the skin’s immune function Benign tumors Fine and coarse wrinkles Freckles Discolored areas of the skin, called mottled pigmentation Sallowness — a yellow discoloration of the skin Telangiectasias — the dilation of small blood vessels under the skin Elastosis — the destruction of the elastic and collagen tissue (causing lines, wrinkles and sagging skin) What Causes Skin Cancer? Skin cancer is the most prevalent form of all cancers in the U.S. and the number of cases continues to rise. It is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. This rapid growth results in tumors, which are either benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous). There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Basal cell and squamous cell cancers are less serious types and make up 95% of all skin cancers. Also referred to as non-melanoma skin cancers, they are highly curable when treated early. Melanoma, made up of abnormal skin pigment cells called melanocytes, is the most serious form of skin cancer and causes 75% of all skin cancer deaths. Left untreated, it can spread to other organs and is difficult to control. Cosmetic Procedures: Sun Exposure and Skin Cancer What Causes Skin Cancer? Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is the number-one cause of skin cancer, but UV light from tanning beds is just as harmful. Exposure to sunlight during the winter months puts you at the same risk as exposure during the summertime, because UVA rays are present in daylight. Cumulative sun exposure causes mainly basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer, while episodes of severe sunburns, usually before age 18, can raise the risk of developing melanoma. Other less common causes are repeated X-ray exposure and occupational exposure to certain chemicals. Who Is at Risk for Skin Cancer? Although anyone can get skin cancer, the risk is greatest for people who have fair or freckled skin that burns easily, light eyes and blond or red hair. Darker skinned individuals are also susceptible to all types of skin cancer, although their risk is substantially lower. Aside from complexion, other risk factors include having a family history or personal history of skin cancer, having an outdoor job and living in a sunny climate. A history of severe sunburns and an abundance (greater than 30) of large and irregularly-shaped moles are risk factors unique to melanoma.