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Preventing a Recurrence

Despite the many warnings Americans have been given about the dangers of skin cancer, studies continue to show the risks are being ignored.  One in five Americans are affected by skin cancer, and disturbing trends indicate the number of young people with skin cancer is increasing. 

The sun has ultraviolet rays that penetrate into the skin and damages the DNA.  Over time, DNA damage can cause the skin cells to become cancerous.  Cumulative effects of overexposure, heredity, age and other individual characteristics can put some people at an increased risk for suffering from skin cancer.

Prognosis depends mostly on the stage of the cancer and the type of treatment used to remove the cancer, but considering that 80 percent of all skin cancers are likely caused by sun exposure, prevention must be communicated.  Educating children and teenagers about the damaging effects of the sun at an early age and getting them into the habit of prevention "“ wearing sunscreen, hats, t-shirts and avoiding prolonged sun exposure- can significantly and effectively reduce their risks of being affected by skin cancer. 

An August 2005 study showed that despite repeated warnings against the dangers of excessive sun exposure, young Americans are not practicing prevention methods.  Most Americans are aware of the dangers of skin cancer, which afflicts more than one million Americans each year, but the August 2005 issue of the American Journal of Preventative Medicine reported in a national survey 31.7 percent of Americans had been sunburned during the previous year.  The study confirmed 60 percent of young adults reported a burn in the previous year, with findings showing that even larger number of children from 12 to 18 suffered from sunburns.

There are new ways of preventing skin cancer beyond sunscreen application that are constantly being researched and presented.  Carbon dioxide lasers are being used to resurface sun-damaged skin before skin cancer develops.  According to experts, many of the earliest genetic markers of photo damage, or sun damage, was improved after the skin was treated with the laser.

Use of a cream called tretinoin is supposed to work in a similar way as the lasers in hopefully preventing skin cancer.  The cream may be able to prevent the cells from developing into skin cancer cells.  Should prevention methods fail, immune system cells, which are taken from a tumor and grown in a lab, may be able to stop the deadliest form of skin cancer "“melanoma.

While still in a very experimental skin cancer prevention phase, researchers hope the cells can be given back to the patient in very large numbers where they can fight and destroy the cancer.  These new methods of preventing skin cancer show the progress researchers have made in skin cancer, but still, the most effective way of preventing skin cancer and reoccurrence is to vigilantly practice prevention methods and to be aware of changes in the skin that can allow early detection.

Dermatologists recommend people of normal risk to visit a dermatologist for a skin cancer check every three years until age 40 and every year after that.  People at high risk for skin cancer should see their doctor on a yearly basis.  The best way of preventing a recurrence is to adhere to safe sun practices and prevention from an early age.  If skin cancer has been diagnosed, the earlier treatment begins, the better the chance of making a full recovery and avoiding recurrence.  Once cancers migrate to the lymph nodes, it can move to other sites in the body, reducing the survival rate significantly.