The sun is a wonderful thing: It offers energy, light, a boost to mental health, and Vitamin D. It's the key to much of life on Earth. But sunlight is also one of the chief causes of skin cancer. What's in sunlight that's potentially dangerous? It's that pesky, invisible specter called ultraviolet light.
No cancer is more common in the United States than skin cancer. There are more than 1 million cases of skin cancer diagnosed annually [source: American Cancer Society]. And there are many types of cancer that affect the skin -- more than 200 [source: California Department of Public Health].
Sunlight isn't the only culprit -- there are several risk factors that could increase your likelihood of developing skin cancer, including the following:
- Regularly working outside (such as for a job)
- Light features (red or blond hair, pale skin, blue or green eyes, freckles)
- Sensitive or easily burned skin
- Preponderance of moles
- Family history of skin cancer
- Using tanning beds or salons
Among the various types of skin cancer, melanoma is the third most prevalent type. As a malignant cancer, it's very dangerous: In 2005, 8,345 Americans died of melanoma [source: CDC]. About 55,000 people get malignant melanoma in the United States each year [source: California Department of Public Health].
The two other most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, both of which can be cured if found early but may lead to scarring or other complications.
In this article, we're going to take a look at what you can do on a regular basis to boost your protection from skin cancer. We'll also learn some facts about skin cancer treatment and the value of Vitamin D.