Tumors of the hair, nails, sweat glands and mammary glands are rare, but rates appear to be rising in the United States, according to a study published in this month’s Archives of Dermatology.

Caucasian men are more susceptible, reports lead author Patrick W. Blake of the National Cancer Institute, and risk increases with age.

Researchers found a 170% increase in cancer diagnoses involving the sweat glands between 1978–1982 and 2002–2005. Cancers of the eyelid glands increased 217% over the same period.

Blake and his colleagues attribute the increase to improved detection and diagnosis, but also point out that sun exposure and weakened immune systems may play a role.

Any further increases, they say, should “prompt new strategies for cancer screening and early intervention.”

To prevent skin cancers:

  1. Eat a healthful diet, and make necessary lifestyle changes. We, of course, recommend switching to organic foods, whenever possible.
  2. Avoid pesticides and other chemicals linked to cancer.
  3. Wear a sunscreen that protects against UV radiation, and don’t stay out in the sun for long periods.
  4. Wear long sleeves, long pants, sunglasses and sun hats when outdoors.
  5. Visit a dermatologist once a year for a head-to-toe body check.

Photo: Bill Branson