These factors may increase your risk of skin cancer:
Having less pigment (melanin) in your skin provides less protection
from damaging UV radiation from the sun or from tanning beds. If you
have blond or red hair, light-colored eyes, and you freckle or
sunburn easily, you're much more likely to develop skin cancer than
is a person with darker features.
A history of
A sunburn is your body's attempt to protect itself from the sun's
damaging rays. Every time you sunburn your skin, you increase your
risk of developing skin cancer. People who've had one or more
severe, blistering sunburns as a child or teenager are at increased
risk of skin cancer as an adult. Sunburns in adulthood also are a
Anyone who spends considerable time in the sun may develop skin
cancer. This is especially true if your skin is unprotected by
sunscreen or clothing. Tanning also puts you at risk. A tan, like a
sunburn, is your skin's injury response after excessive UV
People who live in sunny, warm climates are exposed to more sunlight
than are people who live in colder climates. People who live at
higher elevations, where the sunlight is strongest, also are exposed
to more UV radiation than those who live at lower elevations.
People who have dysplastic nevi are at increased risk of skin
cancer. These moles — which look irregular and are generally larger
than normal moles — may be more likely than others to become
cancerous. If you have a history of these moles, you and your doctor
should watch them regularly for changes. Skin cancer is also more
prevalent in people who have a lot of moles.
Having skin lesions known as actinic keratoses can increase your
risk of developing skin cancer. These precancerous skin growths
typically appear as rough, scaly, brown-to-dark-pink patches.
They're most commonly found on the face, lower arms and hands of
fair-skinned individuals whose skin has been sun damaged.
history of skin cancer.
If your parent or sibling has had skin cancer, you may be at
increased risk of the disease.
history of skin cancer.
If you developed skin cancer once, you're at risk of developing it
People with weakened immune systems are at a greater risk of
developing skin cancer. This may include those who've undergone an
organ transplant and are taking medications that suppress their
immune systems or people with chronic blood disorders such as
Skin that has been burned or injured from disease is more
susceptible to sun damage and skin cancer. Certain psoriasis
treatments can increase the risk of skin cancer.
Exposure to environmental chemicals, including some herbicides,
increases the risk of skin cancer.
Generally, your risk of developing skin cancer increases with age. But
skin cancer isn't limited to middle-age and older people. People in
their 20s and 30s can develop skin cancer. Signs of skin cancer
generally appear after age 50, but the damage to your skin begins much
Screening and diagnosis
See your doctor if you notice a new skin growth, a bothersome change in
your skin, a change in the appearance or texture of a mole, or a sore
that doesn't heal in two weeks. Your doctor may suspect cancer by simply
looking at your skin. But to properly diagnose skin cancer, your doctor
or dermatologist will need to take a small sample of your skin (biopsy)
for analysis in a laboratory. A biopsy can usually be done in a doctor's
office after administering a local anesthetic.
Doctors generally divide skin cancer into two stages:
In this stage, cancer affects only your skin.
In this stage, cancer has spread beyond your skin.
Because superficial skin cancers such as basal cell or squamous cell
cancers rarely spread, a biopsy often is the only test needed to
determine the cancer stage.
If you have a growth that is very large or has existed for some time,
your doctor may conduct further tests to determine whether the cancer
has spread. Your doctor may check your lymph nodes in the area and may
order additional tests, including X-rays. Knowing whether the cancer has
spread will help your doctor plan the best treatment.