What You Don’t Know About Skin Cancer

What You Don’t Know About Skin Cancer | Spectrum Dermatology

What You Don’t Know About Skin Cancer

Most people know that skin cancer is caused by dangerous UV rays, whether from the sun or a tanning bed. You also know that annual skin checks from a dermatologist is an absolute must, and Spectrum Dermatology is always available for mole checks and to inform patients of the latest best practices for sun protection. However, some recent research has revealed other risks of skin cancer that should be explored. Reuters Health recently reported that being exposed to mercury is connected to a higher skin cancer risk.

Data shows that Americans (as the 29,000 individuals analyzed were all American) who regularly eat seafood with a lot of mercury are more likely to be diagnosed with skin cancer. In fact, these adults were found to be 79 percent more likely to have been diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancer when compared to those exposed to lower levels of mercury. The good news is that non-melanoma skin cancers are less dangerous than melanoma but still require prompt treatment. According to the co-author, most people in the US are exposed to mercury when they eat fish but also states that, “scientists haven’t really thought about mercury causing skin cancer.”

Ultimately, this analysis doesn’t “prove” that mercury causes skin cancer. However, the authors are hopeful that the discovery will lead to further research. Many people are already aware of the non-skin cancer risks of high-mercury containing foods, which is why pregnant women are told to eat less seafood to avoid any mercury-related developmental risks for the fetus. However, the researchers stress in the British Journal of Dermatology that mercury has never before been tied to skin cancer. The data showed that non-Hispanic white adults were at the highest risk, but there was no difference in risk for men compared to women. The analysts could not verify the diagnoses of skin cancer and did not ask about skin pigmentation, hair color, the person’s history of tanning, or how many moles they had (all known risk factors for skin cancer).

Skin Cancer Intersections

Another study suggests that there is a link between skin cancer and bereavement. The study was also featured in the British Journal of Dermatology and considered links between the acute psychological stress of the death of a partner and melanoma. Conducted at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in Denmark, researchers found that there was a connection between partner bereavement and melanoma—but not in the ways you may think.

When a person is mourning their partner, they have a decreased chance of being diagnosed with melanoma and an increased risk of dying from melanoma. Grief seems to cause people to forego their annual skin checks. The senior author says, “The study findings are interesting and may relate to bereaved people no longer having someone to help with skin examinations, leading to delays in diagnosis, although we cannot rule out the stress being important in melanoma progression.”

Diagnosing Skin Cancer

Not everyone has someone in their life they feel comfortable asking for at-home skin checks (which can be an important part of skin health). However, at-home checks never take the place of annual mole checks with your dermatologist. It’s very important to keep these appointments with your doctor because even sun damage from decades ago can emerge as skin cancer. One woman recently made headlines because she had 40 moles removed 25 years after she stopped tanning. Judy Cloud warns that treating skin cancer isn’t a one and done deal, but rather a lifelong task of getting proper mole checks.

Cloud has been having moles removed since 1995. She says, “I didn’t take skin cancer seriously after my first diagnosis. I was also one who thought, no big deal, I’ll just get it cut off, I’m fine. Now, 25 years later, it’s a big deal.” In 2016, Cloud had various cancerous and precancerous moles on her face removed. She’s been diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma on her chest and legs since then. She is considered a high-risk patient who gets dermatologist skin checks every six months instead of the more commonly recommended annual exam. So far, Cloud has not been diagnosed with melanoma.

Ready to schedule your own mole check? Call Spectrum Dermatology today at (480) 948-8400.