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Melanoma/Skin Cancer Health Center

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What Increases Your Risk

Risk factors (things that increase your risk) for nonmelanoma skin cancer include:

  • Sunlight, sun lamps, and tanning beds. These expose you to ultraviolet (UV)radiation.
    • UV radiation affects people of all skin types, but especially those with light skin color, freckles, blond or red hair, and blue or light-colored eyes.
    • Where you live makes a difference. People who live closer to the equator get more UV radiation. And people who live at higher altitudes, such as in the mountains, get more UV radiation.
  • A family history of skin cancer or a personal history of skin cancer. Or other things that affect your skin, such as:
    • Inherited genetic disorders, such as xeroderma pigmentosum.
    • A history of severe sunburns, especially during childhood.
    • Scars from severe burns or inflammatory skin conditions.
  • Being older than 40.
  • Being male. Men develop skin cancer more often than women.
  • Smoking.
  • Repeated exposure to X-rays, certain chemicals (such as arsenic, coal tar, creosote), and radioactive substances (such as radium).
  • Being infected with a certain type of human papillomavirus (HPV).

Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas can occur in people with dark skin. But these cancers are much more common in people with light skin.

Recommended Related to Melanoma/Skin Cancer

12 Ways to Protect Your Skin and Prevent Skin Cancer

By Leslie PepperHow coffee protects you, and 11 other surprising ways to stop the most common cancer 1. All doctors are not created equal: When researchers from Emory University School of Medicine looked at the records of more than 2,000 melanoma patients, they found that those whose growths had been diagnosed by a dermatologist were more likely to have early-stage cancer — and to survive their disease — than those who'd been diagnosed by another kind of doctor. It may be that dermatologists...

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The risk of squamous cell carcinoma is higher in people who have weakened immune systems. This includes people who have had organ transplants and take medicines to prevent rejection of the new organ.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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