Is Basal Cell Carcinoma on the Rise?

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Basal Cell Carcinoma or BCC is the most common type of skin cancer in the UK, but is it getting more common and what can you do to reduce the risk?

How Common is Basal Cell Carcinoma?

Skin cancer is classified into two types: melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers. Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer and it often begins in moles. Non-melanoma skin cancers are less likely to spread, but they are much more common than melanoma. Approximately 90% of skin cancers diagnosed in the UK are non-melanoma skin cancers, which means that an estimated 147,445 people are affected every year. Of these, almost three quarters will have basal cell carcinomas.

The rate of skin cancers such as BCC have been increasing in the UK for some time. It has increased by 163% since the early 1990s. Many more people are being diagnosed with this form of skin cancer now.

Why Is Basal Cell Carcinoma Getting More Common?

The most likely explanation for the risk in basal cell carcinomas is that people are suffering more sun damage. This could explain why the rate of BCC is increasing faster in men than in women. Men are more likely to spend time outdoors and they can be less likely to wear sunscreen or use other forms of skin protection.

One reason for the increase in sun damage could be that we’re enjoying more holidays overseas, which means that we’re often exposed to stronger sunshine than we are used to at home. Although people are more aware of the risks of sunbeds, people who used them over the last few decades may also be seeing the results of that damage now.

However, it is also true that other factors may also be affecting the rate. For example, we may be diagnosing more BCCs because people are more likely to visit the doctor if they notice symptoms such as lumps or scaly patches on their skin.

How to Reduce the Risk of Basal Cell Carcinoma?

Even though the rate of basal cell carcinoma has been rising in the UK, that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing we can do about it. The main cause of BCCs is long-term sun damage, so it is possible to reduce the risks of developing this and other types of skin cancer by protecting your skin from the sun. You can do this by:

  • Keeping out of the sun when it is strongest in summer, between 11am and 3pm.
  • Covering up with a hat, sunglasses and long sleeved clothing.
  • Wearing sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 and UVA protection every day. Use a higher SPF when the sun is stronger.
  • Take extra care to protect babies and young children as their skin is more sensitive.

Protecting your skin from sun damage can reduce the risk of skin cancers such as BCC, but it is still important to be aware of the signs that you need to see a dermatologist. If you notice any unusual patches, growths or moles on your skin then you should get them checked by a doctor.

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