UV Rays and Skin Cancer

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has named July as Ultraviolet (UV) Safety Month.  The goal is to spread the word about how important it is to protect everyone’s skin from the harmful effects of UV rays.

Radiation is the emission of energy from any source, and there are many types of radiation.  Ultraviolet radiation is a form of electromagnetic radiation and the main source of UV radiation (rays) is the sun, although it can also come from man-made sources such as tanning beds and welding torches.

Exposure to UV radiation is the main factor that causes skin cells to become cancer cells.  According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the only international organization devoted solely to education, prevention, early detection, and prompt treatment of skin cancer, about 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers and about 86 percent of melanomas are associated with exposure to UV radiation from the sun.

Skin cancer develops in the cells in the epidermis, the top or outer layer of the skin.  UV radiation is made up of UVA and UVB rays which are able to penetrate the skin and cause permanent damage to the cells below:

– UVA rays age skin cells and can damage their DNA.  These rays are linked to long-term skin damage such as wrinkles, but they are also thought to play a role in some skin cancers.  Most tanning beds give off large amounts of UVA, which has been found to increase skin cancer risk.

– UVB rays have slightly more energy than UVA rays.  They can damage skin cells’ DNA directly, and are the main rays that cause sunburns.  They are also thought to cause most skin cancers.

Too much UV radiation from the sun can damage the genetic material (the DNA) in your skin cells.  If enough DNA damage builds up over time, it can cause cells to start growing out of control, which can lead to skin cancer.

Melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers can be invasive.  As well as growing across the surface of the skin, tumors can sometimes grow down through the layers of skin.  If the tumor grows through the wall of a blood or lymph vessel, cancer cells can break off and spread to other parts of the body.  This is why skin cancer is usually easier to treat successfully when it is caught at an early stage.

At Alliance Cancer Care Colorado at Red Rocks, our Sensus® Therapy Unit was the first facility in the State of Colorado to install state-of-the-art equipment that offers skin cancer patients with a new, non-invasive, non-Moh’s, non-surgical option to curatively treat basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma of the skin.  This modality is especially useful and effective for head, neck and face skin cancers because there are no surgical scars (no scalpels and no needles) as a result of treatment or needed for treatment.  This treatment, called SRT or “soft radiation treatment,” is effectively limited to the thickness of the skin and focused directly to the cancerous spot(s).  Treatment can be administered in as little as two days per week for 8 treatments total and is 95% — 98% effective and the actual treatment sessions last a minute or less.

For more information on how we treat skin cancer at Alliance Cancer Care Colorado at Red Rocks, or to schedule an appointment, please contact us today.

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