Are all skin cancers sun-related?

Dr. Ellen Marmur, MD
It's a fact that sun exposure is the primary cause of most skin cancers, providing the one-two punch of creating DNA mutations and suppressing the immune system. But other factors play a role too. Genetics contributes to the development of melanoma, even though approximately 65 percent of melanomas are attributed to UV radiation. Because sun exposure triggers immunosuppression over the entire body, it can create skin cancers anywhere - not just in local areas that receive direct sun. Many can begin where the sun doesn't shine like the mouth. Oral cancer starts on the wet mucosal areas, such as the palate, where there's no stratum corneum. It can look like a white or a red patch or a brown spot. (Your dentist probably checks for skin cancer during a regular exam, but be sure to ask.) Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the most common skin cancer in the mouth, and the chronic burns and carcinogens from cigarette smoking put smokers at higher risk (although 25 percent of oral cancers occur in nonsmokers). SCC can also occur in the nasal passages and in the genital area.
Suffice it to say that skin cancers can show up in surprising, hidden places: on the soles of the feet, on the palms of the hands, under the nails, on the scalp, inside the ears, in the genital area, in the mouth, in the belly button and in the eye. Being vigilantly alert to any changes anywhere on your skin is vital.
Simple Skin Beauty: Every Woman's Guide to a Lifetime of Healthy, Gorgeous Skin

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Simple Skin Beauty: Every Woman's Guide to a Lifetime of Healthy, Gorgeous Skin

What if a leading dermatologist just happened to be your best friend and you could ask her anything? DR. ELLEN MARMUR, a world-renowned New York City dermatologist, answers all your questions with...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.