Sunscreen lotion and shade are two good tools for helping to prevent non-melanoma skin cancer.

Did you know that non-melanoma skin cancer, which includes basal cell and squamous cell cancer, is the most common form of cancer in the US?  In 2012 alone, more than two million new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer were identified, according to the National Cancer Institute. Though non-melanoma cell skin cancer is treatable, new research suggests that the damage it causes may be more than skin deep. Non-melanoma cancer may also play a role in the development of other types of cancer.

A recent study by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) demonstrates an association between non-melanoma skin cancer and future cancer risk among white men and women. Researchers found that people with a history of non-melanoma skin cancer had a modestly higher risk of getting cancer in the future – specifically, breast and lung cancer in women and melanoma in both men and women – compared to those without a history of non-melanoma skin cancer.

Researchers studied data from approximately 46,000 men who participated in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study from 1986 to 2008, and about 107,000 women who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study from 1984 to 2008.

When people with melanoma were excluded from the data, a history of non-melanoma skin cancer was associated with an 11 percent higher risk of other primary cancers in men and a 20 percent higher risk of other primary cancers in women.

“Because our study was observational, these results should be interpreted cautiously and do not yet provide enough evidence to alter current clinical recommendations,” said Dr. Jiali Han, BWH Department of Dermatology and Channing Division of Network Medicine. “Nevertheless, these data support a need for continued investigation of the potential mechanisms underlying this relationship.”

So next time you leave home, don’t forget the sunblock  – it may do more than prevent sunburn, it can also prevent non-melanoma skin cancer.

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