Mercury Exposure And Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer

In a recent study from the British Journal of Dermatology, it was determined that there is a strong link between mercury levels in the blood and non-melanoma skin cancer. Non-melanoma skin cancer is a skin cancer that is not related to melanoma. These include basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. These are the most common form of cancer that people can develop.

The team associated with the study examined levels of different forms of mercury including liquid mercury and mercury that is bonded with other elements. When people with high levels of mercury in their blood are compared with people with low levels, those with high levels had a 1.7-times greater chance of developing non-melanoma skin cancer. Most United States citizens get exposed to mercury when they eat seafood that has also been exposed to mercury.

Other Risk Factors for Skin Cancer

  • Lighter skin tones
    • While anyone can develop skin cancer, those with less melanin (the pigment responsible for skin color) are at a higher risk for developing the condition.
  • Easily sunburned
    • Having a history of sunburns as a child increases the risk of skin cancer as an adult, but getting sunburnt as an adult also increases risk.
  • Family history of skin cancer
    • If members of your family have developed skin cancer, you are at a higher risk of developing it yourself.
  • A large number of moles
    • People with a large number of moles or moles that are irregular are at a higher risk of developing skin cancer. Be sure to check your moles regularly for changes or growth.
  • Living in a high-altitude location
    • Living in areas with more sunlight means increasing the amount of absorbed radiation, and thus increasing the risk of developing skin cancer. Those that live in higher altitudes such as Denver, Colorado are also at a higher risk, as the sunlight they receive is much more intense.
  • Exposure to radiation
    • Those who have recently been exposed to radiation such as treatment for eczema may have a greater chance of developing a form of skin cancer.

What does Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer Look Like?

Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) – This form of skin cancer usually develops on the neck and face, parts of the body that are regularly exposed to sunlight. There are a few different ways that BCC can appear. However, it is possible for BCC to take on a variety of different appearances that are not listed here.

    • Open Sore: an open sore that does not heal or heals and reopens days later, may ooze and bleed
    • Scar-like Patch: a light patch like a healed scar, often stretched out and yellowed
    • Red, Irritated Patch: may appear as an irritated rash that will not heal
    • Pink Growth: a raised-up bump that appears to have a rolled or rolling edge, sometimes flat in the middle, sometimes possessing an ulcer in the center
    • Shiny, Nodular Growth: appears to be a small, pinkish growth that may be mistaken for a new mole, could appear brown/black on darker skin

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) – A more aggressive form of skin cancer, it is found most often on the face, including the ears, nose, and lips. This cancer usually takes on a few different appearances, but do not hesitate to ask your dermatologist to examine any spots or locations that worry you.

    • Crusty, Red Patch: a red, inflamed patch of skin with irregular borders, may scab over or remain irritated
    • Raised Growth: a raised, scabbed-over growth that may bleed if irritated
    • Crusted Sore: a depressed, crusted sore that oozes; often appears blackened and yellow in color
    • Wart-like Growth: a growth often found on the back of ears, could develop a scab or crust on the upper edge

Other Forms:

Sebaceous Gland Carcinoma: These are often found as hard, pea-sized bumps on the eyelids. This is an uncommon form that develops in the sebaceous (oil) glands in the skin. Sebaceous Gland Carcinoma is usually painless.

Merkel Cell Carcinoma: Merkel Cell Carcinoma develops as red, pearly bumps that develop from the Merkel cells (touch receptors) directly beneath the skin. This form of skin cancer may develop on hair follicles as well.

Most forms of non-melanoma skin cancer are treatable if caught early on and are treated soon after detection. Non-melanoma skin cancers are rarely life-threatening and often treated, but you should not wait to have any concerning spots inspected. If you have any concerns about a spot on your body, are at a greater risk of developing skin cancer, or have any questions regarding skin cancer, please do not hesitate to contact your dermatologist.