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How do I know if I am at risk for skin cancer?

The primary risk factor for melanoma and non-melanoma cancers is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, including sunlight and tanning beds, with the risk growing with the amount of exposure. Anyone who has had exposure to UV light is at risk for skin cancer, but other factors may put you at a greater risk.

  • Age: Skin cancer risks increase as you age, which is likely due to accumulated exposure to UV radiation. But skin cancers may also be found in younger individuals who spend a lot of time in the sun. Frequent sunburns, especially when they occurred during childhood, increases the risk of developing melanoma. 
  • Skin tone: Caucasians have a greater risk of developing skin cancer than non-whites. The risk is also higher in individuals with blond or red hair, blue or green eyes, or skin that burns or freckles easily.
  • Family and/or personal history: Individuals with one or more parents or siblings with skin cancer may be at increased risk. Individuals who have previously been diagnosed with skin cancer are also at increased risk for developing the disease again.
  • Smoking: Smokers are more likely to develop squamous cell skin cancers, particularly on the lips.
  • Regular UV exposure: People who work outdoors during the day or who choose to spend much of their leisure time outdoors and are exposed to UV light are at an increased risk. People who choose to use tanning beds increase their risk of skin cancer.