Can Pigmentation Signal about Skin Cancer?

In our society tanned skin is mostly associated with health, well-being and leisure. And many people, especially women, crave to get their summer tan at whatever the cost. But the cost can be too high.

Ultraviolation radiation damage

Whenever a person is outside, his skin is exposed to ultraviolet radiation (UVR). The UVR that reaches the Earth’s surface consists of long wavelength ultraviolet A (UVA) and short wavelength ultraviolet B (UVB). They both can harm human skin and cause hyperpigmentation that, in its turn, can be a sign of a serious health disorder. This infographic describes types of UVR, their deleterious effect on human skin and possible health consequences.

Melanin and hyperpigmentation

When skin is exposed to sunlight for longer time, especially in summer, it starts producing melanin that is a defense mechanism to guard against the damaging effects of UV and skin gets tanned and darker – a process of pigmentation. When sun is too active, or sun exposure is too long, skin can get hyperpigmentatation, its appearance is most often due to prolonged  exposure to direct sunlight and the concentration of melanocytes in human skin. Besides it’s an aesthetic defect, it can also be a sign of health disorder and induce moles, birthmarks and nevi into serious skin diseases.

Hyperpigmentation  and age

Pigmented spots on the skin can occur at any age, but the most common cause of the hyperpigmentation is aging. This is mainly due to the fact that the cells are unable to recover and control the production of melanin. After forty organisms lose the ability to remove toxins through the kidneys, intestines, liver or lungs, so detoxication occurs through the epidermis, leaving traces on the skin, in the form of pigmented spots.

Hyperpigmentation can also occur in young people. Often this is a consequence of internal problems. The development of melanin causes disturbances in the functioning of the gallbladder, liver and gastrointestinal tract, pregnancy and gynecological problems, infectious diseases, metabolic disorders or vitamin deficiency, as well as long-term use of certain medicinal and hormonal drugs. Therefore, before choosing a method for removing pigmentation, it is necessary to find out the reasons for the enhanced production of melanin by the body.

Can hyperpigmentation signal about melanoma?

One of the most dangerous symptoms that hyperpigmentation can have for human health is cancer development, melanoma in particular. Such stimulation factors as ultraviolet irradiation, trauma and endocrine disorders can induce melanoma. Excessive exposure to the sun is the strongest of them. Ultraviolet radiation in large doses causes irreversible changes in the skin cells, repeatedly increasing the risk of their degeneration. Llight-skinned, fair and red-haired people are most vulnarable to the mutagenic effects of sunlight.

Who is at risk for melanoma

At the moment, the link between various types of skin cancer and sunlight is considered proven. This principle applies to melanoma. Solar radiation is the main cause of the development of this type of cancer. Light-skinned and fair and red-haired people are most vulnarable to harmful effect  of sunlight.

How to protect yourself from melanoma

In view of the extreme danger of melanoma, people at high risk of developing this disease (e.g.,people who spend a lot of time outside) are recommended to follow prevention measures against melanoma and other skin cancers.

In order to protect yourself from skin cancer:

  • Try to maximally limit the time spent in the sun, especially at lunch hours.
  • If exposure to the sun is inevitable, protect exposed areas of the skin from direct sunlight:  wear a long-sleeved T-shirt, a wide-brimmed hat, and trousers.
  • Always use sunscreen at direct sunlight. The UV protection factor should be at least 15.
  • Familiarize with all major and minor signs of melanoma and discuss with a doctor if possible.
  • Regularly examine the entire surface of the skin. Ask your friend or relative to examine the skin at the back and head.

Every person should know the location of his birthmarks and pigment spots, and when pigmentation intensifies, immediately visit oncodermatologist for consultation.

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