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Cancer Genetics

Skin Cancer and Further Exposure

02/11/1999

Question:

At age 51, with blue eyes and fair skin, I'm diagnosed with BCC and SCC. My mother was also diagnosed with the same at 70. My dermitologist says most skin damage is caused by exposure prior to age 22. If so, how important is it to avoid exposure now? Will it really make any difference? I'm am an active outdoorsman. Thank you.

Answer:

For some background information about different forms of skin cancer and their risk factors, please refer to the previous question entitled `Skin Cancer and Available Therapies`, which was posted on this forum in early January. You can do so by selecting the `Browse previous questions` option under the Cancer Genetics `Ask an Expert` forum. The information provided to you by your dermatologist is true: there is a direct correlation between sun exposure that occurs early in life and an increased risk for skin cancer later in life. However, it is still important that people, especially fair-skinned individuals, continue to practice safe skin care habits throughout life. The fact that you have already developed two skin cancers suggests that your type of skin may be more prone to sun damage. Therefore, it is even more important that you continue to protect yourself. The American Cancer Society recommends wearing a sunblock of at least SPF 15 on all sun-exposed areas. I would also recommend discussing your question further with your dermatologist. If you are concerned about both you and your mother having the same form of skin cancer, you may want to speak to a genetic counselor or geneticist in your area. Although BCC and SCC are usually sporadic, i.e. not due to an inherited susceptibility, it would be necessary for someone to obtain a complete family history to answer this question accurately.

Related Resources:

Skin Cancer and Available Therapies

For more information:

Go to the Cancer Genetics health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Judith A Westman, MD Judith A Westman, MD
Associate Professor, Clinical Internal Medicine, Pediatrics and Medical Biochemistry
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University

Rebecca J Nagy, MS, CGC Rebecca J Nagy, MS, CGC
Formerly, Clinical Instructor of Genetics
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University