Risk Factors for Skin Cancer

A risk factor is something about you that increases your chance of getting a disease or having a certain health condition. Some risk factors for skin cancer you cannot change, but some you can. Changing the risk factors that you have control over will help you live a longer, healthier life.

Risk factors do not mean that you will get the disease. Many people who have these risk factors do not develop the disease and many who develop the disease did not have any of these risk factors.

The risk factors for skin cancer are:

  • Fair complexion – People of fair complexion are at an increased risk of developing skin cancer, especially people with:
    • Light skin that freckles, burns easily or tans poorly
    • Blue, green or gray eyes
    • Red or blond hair
  • Extended exposure to UV light – People with long-term exposure to natural sunlight or ultraviolet light — especially from tanning beds — are at greater risk of developing skin cancer.
  • History of severe sunburns – People with a history of repeated severe sunburns as a child are at an increased risk of developing skin cancer.
  • High mole count – People with a high mole count are at a greater risk of developing skin cancer.
  • Personal history – People who have had an incidence of skin cancer are at a greater risk of developing skin cancer again.
  • Family history – People with a family history of skin cancer or a family history of unusual moles are at an increased risk of developing skin cancer.
  • Industrial exposure – People who have been exposed to certain chemicals, such as arsenic, tar, coal, and paraffin may be at a greater risk of developing skin cancer.
  • Race/ethnicity – Whites are at an increased risk of developing skin cancer.
  • Gender – Men are twice as likely to develop skin cancer as women.

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