Having Skin Cancer May Increase Risk of Developing Other Cancers

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • "One in 8 women will deal with breast cancer at some point in their lives. New research shows an association between non-melanoma skin cancer and an increased risk of breast cancer. Concerned about your own cancer risk? Learn more about breast cancer risk factors." PJ Hamel, Health Central's Breast Cancer Community


    Those who have non-melanoma skin cancers, such as squamous cell or basal cell carcinoma, may increase your risk of developing other cancers later according to a new study completed at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Researchers found that men who had been diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancer had an 11 percent higher risk of developing another cancer (other than melanoma) and women had a 20 percent higher risk.

    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:

    Scientists looked at cancers of over 150,000 people who had participated in two large health studies – the Health Professionals Study and the Nurses’ Health Study. Over 25 years, there were 36,102 cases of non-melanoma cancer. Almost 30,000 other cancers, such as melanoma, prostate, breast and lung cancer were also identified. 


    Some of the findings include:

    • Men who had non-melanoma cancer had almost double the risk of developing melanoma
    • Women with non-melanoma cancer had a 20 percent higher risk of developing breast cancer and a 32 percent higher risk of developing lung cancer.
    • Women with non-melanoma cancer had more than double the risk of developing melanoma.

    The reasons aren’t exactly clear but researchers theorize that the increased risk of melanoma may be due to further sun exposure. A previous study, as reported in Time Magazine, found that even those who were survivors of melanoma did not always take steps to protect themselves from sun damage. The report found that over one-fourth of those with previous melanoma did not use sunscreen at all, however the majority did take some steps but many continued to tan.


    But sun exposure doesn’t fully explain why the risk would be higher for other cancers, such as prostate, lung or breast cancer. Theories to explain this include that genetic or biological roots are shared by the different cancers or that sun exposure weakens cells ability to repair DNA damage from sun exposure or other carcinogens.


    The study didn’t show clear evidence of a connection between non-melanoma cancers and other cancers, only an association. Because of this, the scientists don’t believe that all those people with non-melanoma cancers should be screened for other cancers  but that further research is needed to determine how these cancers are interlinked.


    For more information visit Health Central’s communities:


    Breast Cancer


    Colon Cancer






    “Skin Cancer Linked to Higher Risk of Other Cancers,” 2013, April 25, Alexandria Sifferlin, Time Magazine


    “Skin Cancer May Raise Your Risk of Other Cancers In the Future,” 2013, April 24, Huffington Post


    “Some Skin Cancer Survivors Still Use Tanning Beds,” 2013, April 9, Alexandria Sifferlin, Time Magazine

Published On: May 01, 2013