Are You At Risk for Skin Cancer?

August 14, 2014
sun_skin cancer

The summer may be winding down, but the potential for hot temperatures and dangerous sunlight is more and more likely every day. That means the risk for skin cancer increases, especially if you spend an excessive amount of time in the sun. The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention provides some risk factors for skin cancer and, while some can be controlled, others, like age, can't be changed. Read on for some key factors to determine if you might be at risk.

Ultraviolet (UV) light

Sunlight is the main source of UV radiation, which can damage the genes in your skin cells. UV light is thought to be the major risk factor for most skin cancers. Tanning lamps and booths are another source of UV radiation. People with high levels of exposure to UV light are at greater risk for skin cancer.

Fair skin

The risk of skin cancer is much higher for whites than for dark-skinned African-Americans or Hispanics. This is because melanin helps protect against UV radiation. People with dark skin have more melanin. People with fair (light-colored) skin that freckles or burns easily are at extra high risk.

Older age

The risk of basal and squamous cell skin cancers goes up as people get older. Older people have been exposed to the sun for a longer time. Still, these cancers are now being seen in younger people too, probably because they are spending more time in the sun without protecting their skin.


Men are two times as likely as women to have basal cell cancers and about three times as likely to have squamous cell cancers of the skin. This could be because they spend more time in the sun.


Exposure to large amounts of arsenic increases the risk of skin cancer. Arsenic is a heavy metal used to make some insecticides. It is also found in well water in some areas. Workers exposed to industrial tar, coal, paraffin and certain types of oil may have an increased risk, too.

Weakened immune system

People with weak immune systems are more likely to develop non-melanoma skin cancer. For instance, people who have had an organ transplant often take medicines to weaken the immune system so that the body cannor reject the organ. These people are more likely to develop non-melanoma skin cancer. Skin cancers in people with weak immune systems tend to grow faster and are more likely to be fatal.


Scientists have found that certain people are more likely than others to develop skin cancer after sun exposure. In these people, certain parts of the normal cells are more sensitive to being damaged by sunlight.