What is my risk for skin cancer?

What is my risk for skin cancer?


5 minute read

Both non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancers are caused by short and long-term sun exposure. The ultraviolet rays in sunlight can damage the DNA in skin cells, leading to skin damage and/or skin cancer. Understanding your individual risk for skin cancer can help reduce your chances of developing basal cell, squamous cell, and melanoma skin cancers.

The most common risk factors for developing skin cancer.

Does Hair Color Impact my risk for Skin Cancer?

One feature that may increase your risk for skin cancer is hair color. People with red/blonde hair, fair skin, and freckles have a higher risk of developing melanoma. Researchers say that patients with genes for red hair have more mutations in their skin, which is then responsible for a higher chance of melanoma.

Does Eye Color Impact my risk for Skin Cancer?

Lighter eye colors are associated with an increased risk of BCC and SCC. While eye color is not a significant contributor to your risk of developing skin cancer, it is worthy to note that those with blue and green eyes are at a greater risk.

Does the color of my skin impact my risk for skin cancer?

The Fitzpatrick Skin Type is a skin classification system that 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 those with more pigmentation have more natural protection from the sun.

If I have more moles, does that impact my risk for skin cancer?

Another notable risk factor is the number of moles present on your body. Certain types and a large number of moles can be risk factors for developing melanoma. Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer and can appear as moles that are unusually dark, asymmetrical, and enlarged. Seeing a dermatologist for biannual skin exams can help you identify moles that may be suspicious of skin cancer.

How many sunburns increase my risk for skin cancer?

The more often your skin gets burned in the sun, the higher your risk for skin cancer will be. Sunburns are a leading cause in the majority of cases of BCC, SCC, and melanoma. Each time you get a sunburn your skin cells are damaged by the UV radiation from the sun. Over the years this repeated attack on your DNA can lead to skin cancer. By wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or greater, you are reducing your risk of skin cancer by 40%.

If I've used a tanning bed will that increase my risk for skin cancer?

When you use a tanning bed, the DNA in your skin cells is damaged which can lead to accelerated skin aging, increased risk of sunburns, as well as a multitude of other health issues. Exposure to ultraviolet rays from indoor tanning beds is associated with an increased risk of developing BCC, SCC, and melanoma. Both UVA and UVB radiation are emitted through indoor tanning devices. Over time, the radiation from tanning beds will leave lasting damage to your skin.

How do genetics play a role in my risk for skin cancer?

Another significant risk factor worth mentioning is a family history of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer. Approximately five to ten percent of melanoma cases are hereditary. Gene mutations lead to an increased risk of developing skin cancer among the offspring of a person with malignant melanoma. Family history of melanoma as well as non-melanoma skin cancer should always be discussed with your dermatologist during your full body skin exam appointment.

If I've had a personal history of skin cancer, does that make me more likely to get it again?

If you have had skin cancer in the past, you might be at a greater risk of developing the same or a different type of skin cancer again. Around 60 percent of people previously diagnosed with skin cancer will be diagnosed with another within a decade. It is important to get annual skin exams if you have a history of basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, or melanoma. Additionally, early detection is key to identifying recurring skin cancers! Skin cancer detected early and quickly is more typically of little concern. However, a personal history of skin cancer makes it that much more important to ensure sun protection, avoid tanning, and see a dermatologist you trust.

No matter your physical characteristics or skin cancer history, any and all people who are exposed to the sun face the risk of developing skin cancer. This means that those who always tan or rarely burn can still get skin cancer. As mentioned above, there are certain features that people with fair/lighter pigmented skin should be aware of. This includes having red or fair hair color, an abundant number of moles or freckles throughout the body, or a history of extreme sunburns. If your skin type checks off any of the aforementioned boxes, you may be at a greater risk of developing skin cancer. Getting annual skin checks can reduce your risk of skin cancer. Anytime you notice a new spot of concern, be sure to reach out to your dermatologist to ensure you can get the best information regarding your personal risk of developing skin cancer.

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