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General Risk Factors For Skin Cancer

There are many risk factors for developing skin cancer ranging from sun exposure to moles to family history:

  • Exposure to ultraviolet rays and sunburn: People who have experienced prolonged exposure to sunlight and tanning booths are at an increased risk to develop skin cancer. The amount of exposure depends on the intensity of the light, length of time the skin was exposed, and whether the skin was protected with either clothing or sunscreen. In addition, severe sunburn in childhood or teenage years can increase the risk of skin cancer.
  • Skin coloring/pigmentation: People with fair skin are 20 times more likely to develop skin cancer than people with darker skin. Caucasian people with red or blonde hair and fair skin that freckles or burns easily are at the highest risk. People with darker pigmentation can also develop skin cancer, more likely on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, under the nails or inside the mouth.
  • Moles: Individuals with moles may be at increased risk of developing melanoma, especially if the moles are unusual, large or multiple.
  • Family history: Risk of developing melanoma is higher if one or more members of a person's immediate family have been diagnosed.
  • Immune suppression: People who have illnesses affecting their immune system (such as HIV) or who are taking medicines to suppress their immune system (such as after an organ transplant) are at an increased risk of skin cancer.
  • Occupational exposure: Individuals exposed to coal tar, pitch, creosote, arsenic compounds or radium are at increased risk to develop skin cancer.