The most at-risk skin types for skin cancer

The most at-risk skin types for skin cancer


3 minute read

Your risk for developing skin cancer is based on a multitude of factors, including your skin type. Skin type, however, is not one thing. In fact, skin type varies by age, race, activity level, and genetic composition. This means that just because your family and you share similar DNA, your skin type may be completely different! There are even noticeable differences in skin types between men and women. For example, men have more pigmentation in their skin, which can result in increased dark spots on their skin from minor irritation, sun, and acne. But what about skin type and skin cancer?

We’re diving into what your skin type says about your personal risk of developing skin cancer.

What is my skin type?

There are certain skin types that are more susceptible than others to the harmful effects of the sun. The Fitzpatrick Skin Type is a skin classification system that was developed in 1975 by Dr. Thomas Fitzpatrick of Harvard Medical School. The system ranks skin types on a scale from one to six, with skin types I and II having the highest risk of developing skin cancer. Those with skin types V and VI have the lowest risk, but still, need to be mindful and ensure skin protection when in the sun. People with darker skin have the lowest risk for skin cancer because darker skin typically has more pigment, which allows for natural protection from the sun. Take a look at the diagram below, and figure out what skin type you align to. Determining your personalized skin type can help predict and then reduce your overall risk for skin damage and skin cancer.

Graphic adopted from check4cancer.com

Who is most likely to get skin cancer?

While the above diagram is not entirely precise, the bottom line is no matter the skin type, any and all people who are exposed to the sun face the risk of developing skin cancer. This means that those who ‘only tan’ or ‘rarely burn’ are still at risk of developing skin cancer.

Are there any other skin cancer risk factors I should be aware of?

Yes! The shade, texture, and history of your skin type are all important risk factors that should be considered when thinking about skin cancer. One notable factor is the number of moles on your body.

Certain types of moles or a large number of moles on your body can be a risk factor for developing basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. If you have a suspicious spot or unusual mole of concern, read about how to tell if a suspicious mole, pimple or scar could be skin cancer here. Seeing a dermatologist for biannual skin exams can help you identify moles that may be suspicious of skin cancer.

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