Although it does not collect a death toll as high as melanoma (1,515 deaths versus 531 melanoma deaths in 2011), research has shown that non-melanoma skin cancer puts people at risk of developing further cases of skin cancer and even other forms of cancer.
“This is something that we, as Australians, must pay attention to, as non-melanoma skin cancer is the most common type of skin cancer in Australia, with around 434,000 people treated for it each year,” cautions Dr Stan Green from Specialist Clinics of Australia in Sydney.
A Rise In Non-Melanoma Skin Cancers
Because of the continuous rise in non-melanoma skin cancers, dermatologists and cancer groups are advocating that people with skin cancer history should be extremely vigilant about having regular checkups done.
The basics for skin protection have not changed. Wearing sunscreen, avoiding sun exposure and wearing protective clothing are the widely known ABC of protection against skin cancer.
However, if you already have a history of skin cancer, doing the above is not enough. Dr Green explains, “Unfortunately, the research shows that people are who have already gone through the drama of skin cancer are prone to ignore the dangers of sun exposure”.
A study done in 2014 in Denmark showed that people who were diagnosed with melanoma spent fewer days without using sunscreen only during the first year following the diagnosis. After that, the old habits related to unprotected sun exposure returned to what they had been before the discovery of skin cancer.
Both Non-Melanoma Types Of Cancer Can Be Cured
If treated promptly, both basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas are entirely curable forms of cancer.
Once you’ve been diagnosed with a basal cell carcinoma, the risk of skin cancer re-occurrence increases by 40%, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Squamous cell cancers might also return, most often within a couple of years after surgical removal.
Additionally, once you’ve had either of the above types of skin cancer, you’re at a significantly higher risk of developing melanoma, which is the skin cancer with the highest fatality rate.
As if this wasn’t enough, recent studies show that going through a skin cancer episode makes you more likely to develop other forms of cancer, such as a breast and lung cancer in women and prostate cancer in men.
What Should I Do After Overcoming Skin Cancer?
“Surveillance is the key,” says Dr Green, “Once you have history of skin cancer, you should never fall off the medical radar. Regular checkups can be a literal life-saviour.”
As it happens, people tend to ignore the risks when they have healed after a procedure. As more time passes, the more relaxed we tend to feel and the memory of cancer vanishes into the past. However, this should not be the case with skin cancer – or ANY kind of cancer whatsoever!
If cancer found its way to your skin, you are at high risk of developing skin cancer again.
It is a known fact that multiple skin cancers have a tendency of occurring in patients, so take care of your health and be extra safe. Depending on the extent of your skin’s sun damage, you should visit a dermatologist or skin cancer doctor every 6 to 12 months. If your skin is severely harmed, you might have to be checked every 2 months.
The geographical location of our country means that the battle against skin cancer is our daily struggle. Let’s make sure it is one that we will win.