Skin Cancer: Who’s Most at Risk?

When you consider who is most at risk for skin cancer, it’s important to remember one key fact: no one is immune to skin cancer. While some people are more at risk than others due to a variety of factors (which are discussed below), the fact is that no one is totally risk free.

That said, there are some things that increase or decrease your risk of skin cancer.

Factors That Influence Skin Cancer Risk:

1. Freckles

If you freckle easily, this is your body’s signal that this is how it deals with sun exposure. If your skin tends to “make” freckles in response to sun exposure, then there may be a greater likelihood that your skin will respond by developing cancer.

2. Light Hair and Eyes

These physical traits are known to indicate an increased risk of skin cancer, particularly light blond and red hair.

3. Do You Burn Easily?

Even some light-skinned people do not burn very easily, but for those who do, cancer risk is likely increased. People who burn easily and do not tan have smaller amounts of melanin (pigment) in their skin. Melanin is the body’s natural protection against sun, so if you don’t have enough of it, your skin is more likely to burn.

4. Genes

Have others in your family had skin cancer? Experts agree that genetics play a role, and you may be more at risk if skin cancer “runs in the family.”

5. Moles

If you have a lot of moles – particularly on sun-exposed areas of your skin – then you may be more at risk for skin cancer. Large moles are especially vulnerable. Moles that change shape, size, or color should be checked by a doctor.

6. Sunburns in the Past

Did you have a lot of sunburns in the past, or one or two really bad ones? Many sources agree that this raises your risk of developing skin cancer significantly.

7. Sunbathing

Even if you sunbathe “responsibly,” getting a tan is essentially damaging your skin. The same goes for tanning salons and tanning booths. “Baking” in the sun or under lights to get a tan can raise your risk of skin cancer.

8. Geographical Location

If you live in an area with year-round sunlight that’s bright, you may have a greater risk of developing skin cancer. In Arizona, the risk of skin cancer is twice what it is in Minnesota, sources say.

9. Chemical Exposure

Some insecticides are made with a heavy metal called arsenic. Exposure to arsenic raises the risk of skin cancer. Exposure to coal, tar, paraffin, and some oils may also increase risk.

10. Gender

Did you know that sources say men are two to three times as likely as women to develop skin cancer? It may have to do with spending time shirtless in the sun, or being out more; but the statistics agree than men are more likely to get this disease.

Now that you know some of the main risk factors, you can take appropriate precautions and avoid skin cancer.