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Who is at risk for non-melanoma skin cancer?

Many American's are less familiar with the two most common types of non melanoma skin cancer, squamous cell and basal cell carcinoma. There are many risk factors for non melanoma skin cancer, several of which are the same as those for melanoma such as too much UV exposure, a previous history of skin cancer, fair skin, and a family history of skin cancer. The American Cancer Society has outlined all of the risk factors for non melanoma skin cancer on their website.

The following list applies to basal and squamous cell only.

  1. Previous skin cancer: If you have ever had skin cancer you are at an increased risk to developing it again.
  2. Overexposure to UV radiation including both sunlight and tanning lamps.
  3. Fair skinned people are more susceptible to developing skin cancer.
  4. Gender: According to the American Cancer Society, men are 2 times more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma, and 3 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma.
  5. Exposure to certain chemicals such as arsenic (used in some insecticides), industrial tar, paraffin, and certain types of oil.
  6. Radiation: People who have received radiation treatment are at a greater risk of developing skin cancer at the site of treatment.
  7. UV light treatments used to treat patients suffering from psoriasis can cause an increased risk.
  8. Human Papilloma Virus (HPV): There are over 100 types of HPV viruses, the ones that are linked to genital warts appear to be related to skin cancer.
  9. Smoking put people at an increased risk for squamous cell, but not basal cell.
  10. Genetics. Other more rare risk factors include scars from long term or severe skin inflammation or injury, Xeroderma pigmentosum (a rare inherited condition), Basal cell nevus syndrome (rare congenital condition), and reduced immunity (such as organ transplant patients).
For more detail on the risk factors for basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer, visit the American Cancer society's website.

Source: (2009). Detailed guide: Skin cancer - nonmelanoma: What are the risk factors for nonmelanoma skin cancer? Retrieved March 5, 2009, from American Cancer Society Web site:

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2008 study indicates 28 states have indoor tanning laws

An October 2008 study indicates that 28 states have passes indoor tanning legislation aimed at restricting the use of tanning facilities by minors. The legislation ranges from minimum age requirement to parental consent under age 18 required. The study focused its efforts on determining whether or not the state laws are actually being enforced. Their findings indicate that approximately 64% of the cities either did not inspect tanning facilities for compliance or inspected them less than once a year. The study concluded that based on the lack of enforcement of tanning legislation, additional studies are needed to determine the effectiveness of such legislation, and enforcement practices, on reducing the use of tanning facilities by minors.

Source: Mayer JA., Hoerster KD, Pichon LC, Rubio DA, Woodruff SI, Forster JL. Enforcement of state indoor tanning laws in the United States. Prev Chronic Dis 2008:5(4) Accessed March 3, 2009

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Sunscreen: What really works?

Many people are aware of the benefits sunscreen can provide by protecting their skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays. Recently, some of these benefits have been challenged. A study done in 2007 by the Environmental Working Group analyzed over 1,000 sunscreens and raised some concern about the level of protection provided by these products and analyzed the safety of multiple ingredients. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, two of the seventeen ingredients allowed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), were proven to be safe and effective. If you would like to see how the sunscreen you use was rated, please visit:

While sunscreen is the most common form of sun-protection there are several other alternatives that are often more effective. Clothing, sunglasses, hats and seeking shade during high UV times are all skin cancer prevention measures to consider, in addition to sunscreen. Australians, considered innovators in sun safety research, designed the Slip, Slap, Slop, program which encourages you to slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen and slap on a hat. There is also clothing on the market with a built in sunscreen or an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) rating. UPF clothing offers an alternative to sunscreen and unlike lotions and sprays the UPF found in clothing won't wash off or sweat off! This clothing contains Sunguard, a product from RIT dye, and can be found at sporting goods stores across the nation.

Gray S, Lunder S, Markey K, et al Sunscreen Summary  What Works and What's Safe. Environmental Working Group; 2008. Available at: Accessed August 8, 2008.
A skin deep dilemma: Sunscreen. Denver Post, July 3, 2008. Available at: Accessed July 11, 2008.

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