6 Things That Boost Your Skin Cancer Risk

by Amy Tudor Patient Expert

Sun exposure isn't the only way you can get skin cancer. Here are 6 things that also increase your risk.

Are you at greater risk?

Sun exposure is the primary cause of skin cancer, but there are some genetic and lifestyle factors that can also raise your skin cancer risk.

In this slideshow, we look at 6 things that can boost your chances of developing skin cancer and ways you can counteract this increased risk.

Light Features

The skin protects itself from sun damage by gathering pigment in the cells on the surface of the skin, or "tanning." People with fair skin, freckles, red or blonde hair, and blue or green eyes do not have large amounts of pigment to darken the skin, and this makes them more susceptible to skin cancer.

Outside Work

Most skin cancers are caused by frequent, prolonged exposure to sun. This means that people who work outside much of the time have a significantly higher skin cancer risk.

Wearing protective clothing, using sunscreen with a SPF rating of 15 or higher, and limiting sun exposure from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. when the sun's rays are the most intense can help outside workers reduce their risk.


People who have a great number of moles have a higher risk for skin cancer, experts say. People who have many moles that are larger than a pencil eraser and irregular in shape--called dysplastic nevi--have a greater chance of developing melanoma, as well.

It's important for both you and your doctor to check your moles frequently for any changes in shape, size, or color. Moles that bleed, ooze, or become painful should also be checked.

Family History

If you have a blood relative diagnosed with melanoma at an early age, with more than on melanoma, or with melanoma of the eye, you have a greater risk of developing melanoma yourself. Your risk also increases if you have more than family member who has had pancreatic cancer.

However, statistics suggest that only 5 percent of melanomas are due to an inherited gene. Most are due to sun exposure.

Sensitive, Easily Burned Skin

According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, a person who has had five or more sunburns doubles his or her risk for malignant melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.

If your skin burns easily, it's important to wear protective clothing or a high SPF-rated sunscreen to shield the skin from the sun's radiation. Staying out of the sun during its peak hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. will also help reduce your risk.

Tanning Bed Use

Many people believe a tan makes them look more healthy, when in reality a tan is a sign of skin cell damage, not a sign of a health.

In a recent study, people who used a tanning bed, tanning booth, or sun lamp were 2.5 times more likely to develop the squamous type of skin cancer and 1.5 times more likely to develop basal skin cancer. Tanning beds also greatly increase users' risk for deadly melanoma.

Amy Tudor
Meet Our Writer
Amy Tudor

Amy wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Psoriasis.