Many types of skin cancers, like basal cell carcinomas, are often caused by cumulative sun exposure. However, there are other factors that can predispose an individual to skin cancer. When people think of inherited cancers, they may think of prostate, colon, or breast cancer; however, some types of skin cancer can also have a hereditary link. Take a look at what traits could make you more prone to skin cancer and how to prevent and combat this condition.
What Traits Can Predispose You to Skin Cancer?
People of any race can develop cancer, but people with fair complexions, freckles, and light hair are at an increased risk for skin cancer. People with fairer complexions have less melanin — a dark pigment found in skin, hair, and eyes — which can protect people from sunburns. Fairer complexions tend to burn rather than tan, so there is an increased risk of skin cancer.
Is There a Genetic Link to Skin Cancer?
According to Stanford Healthcare, about 5 to 10% of melanoma skin cancers are inherited. There is a type of hereditary skin cancer called atypical mole-melanoma (FAM-M) that can be the result of a gene on chromosome 9. If you have many family members that have developed melanoma, then it may be worth it to get genetic testing done. This genetic mutation not only increases the risk of skin cancer, but it can increase the risk of pancreatic cancer.
How Can You Prevent and Treat Skin Cancer?
Although a positive result for genetic testing can be discouraging, the good news is that many of the preventative options that work for other skin cancers can work for people with a family predisposition. This means that using sunscreen, avoiding tanning beds, and using sun-protective clothing can still mitigate the chances of skin cancer.
People with a family history of skin cancer should also visit their dermatologist for regular check-ups. A dermatologist can check birthmarks and moles for any changes in their size, color, shape, or texture. A dermatologist can also order a skin biopsy, where a small sample of skin is tested for the presence of cancer. Early detection is important because the cancer will be less likely to spread. If skin cancer isn't detected early, it's more likely to spread to nearby structures, like lymph nodes, and throughout the body.
Most skin cancers can be cured if they are treated early. Treatments include cryotherapy, Mohs surgery, excision, and chemotherapy. The type of treatment that your dermatologist recommends will depend on many things such as your age, how aggressive the cancer is, which type of cancer you have, etc.
To learn more about skin cancer and how to reduce your risk factor, reach out to a skin cancer doctor.