Some people worry that the radiation used to treat skin cancer can actually cause cancer. This concern is common when people who have had one skin cancer get diagnosed with another. The new cancer is often mistaken for the old cancer coming back. While it is true that radiation causes skin cancer, the new cancer was most likely caused by radiation from the sun’s rays or tanning beds—not the radiation from treatment.
Treatment with radiation does NOT cause more skin cancer
Radiation is a common treatment for skin cancer. Depending on the type of skin cancer radiation treatment, radiation can be a very effective cure. In fact, Image-Guided Superficial Radiation Therapy (Image-Guided SRT) has been shown to cure over 99% of basal and squamous cell skin cancers.
It is important to remember that up to half of all people who have had one skin cancer will have another within 5 years. If you had radiation for skin cancer in the past and have another skin cancer in the same area, it is likely caused by exposure to the sun’s damaging rays.
The danger of ultraviolet radiation
Radiation from the sun’s rays and tanning beds is the leading cause of skin cancer. More specifically, it is the ultraviolet (UV) radiation that causes skin cancer. The best way to avoid UV radiation and prevent skin cancer is to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a skin protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher, and to avoid using tanning beds and sun lamps.
How to stay ahead of skin cancer
The most effective way to stay a step ahead of skin cancer is to get a full-body skin check each year and to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen (SPF 15 or higher). Make your skin health a priority and talk with your dermatologist about any suspicious spots you notice. Together, you can work to find and treat any skin cancers early, before they become too serious.