Health Encyclopedia


Health Encyclopedia Home

Am I At Risk for nonMelanoma Skin Cancer?

Am I At Risk for Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer?

There is no way to know for sure if you're going to get skin cancer. Certain factors can make you more likely to get this type of cancer than someone else. These are called risk factors. Some risk factors are out of your control, such as the color of your skin or your age. You can control some risk factors by doing things like protecting yourself from the sun and not using tobacco.

If you agree with any of the following bolded statements, you may be at an increased risk of developing skin cancer.

Each time you agree with a statement, ask yourself if you are doing all that you can to control that particular risk factor. It may seem difficult, but your efforts can have a big payoff when it comes to your health and quality of life. Ask your doctors and loved ones to help think of ways that you can lower your risk for skin cancer.

I have light-colored skin

People with red or blonde hair or green, blue, or gray eyes have an increased risk of skin cancer. That's because if you have one of these features, you're also likely to have light-colored skin. The lighter your skin, the less pigment there is to protect the skin cells from the harmful effects of the sun. But even people with darker skin can get skin cancer.

I am out in the sun a lot

The sun's ultraviolet rays can damage your skin and lead to skin cancer. The more time you spend in the sun, the greater your chances are of getting skin cancer. Your risk is even higher if you have light-colored skin. Almost all nonmelanoma skin cancers develop because people spend too much time in the sun without proper protection.

I have used tanning booths or sunlamps, especially before age 30

These artificial sources of UV rays can also cause damage to the skin, and the risk of cancer is especially high if used at a young age. 

I live in an area close to the equator or at a high elevation

The closer you live to the equator or the higher up you live, the greater your risk of skin cancer. Skin-damaging ultraviolet rays come from the sun. These rays are stronger the higher up you are and the closer you are to the equator.

I have precancerous growths on my skin

People who have had a lot of sun exposure can develop small, crusty growths on the skin. On the lips (usually the lower lip), the normally red skin can appear white, dry, and cracked. You may hear this type of growth called actinic keratosis. Doctors consider these growths to be precancerous. Researchers don't know yet which of these growths will change into skin cancer.

I have had skin cancer before

People with a history of nonmelanoma skin cancers are more likely to get another one. 

I have scars that have been on my skin for many years

Skin that has been damaged already is more likely to develop cancer. This is true mostly for scars from burns.

I have been treated with radiation therapy

Radiation therapy may have already damaged your skin. This makes it more likely that the sun will increase the damage, leading to cancer.

I have been exposed to a lot of arsenic

Arsenic is a metal found in the earth. It is used for insecticides and weed killers. Arsenic can damage your skin, leading to skin cancer. If you have been exposed to a lot of arsenic, you have a greater risk of getting a kind of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma.

I have xeroderma pigmentosum (XP) or basal cell nevus syndrome (Gorlin syndrome)

People who have these rare inherited conditions have a high risk of getting nonmelanoma skin cancers, starting at a young age.

I have reduced immunity

People who take medicines that lower their immunity, such as people who have had organ transplants, are at higher risk for skin cancer.

I smoke

People who smoke have a higher risk of squamous cell carcinoma, especially on the lips. 

Related Items
Wellness Library
  Medical Symptoms You Should Never Ignore
Content Type 134
  How Lifestyle and Medical History Affect Cancer Risk: Facts for Gay and Bisexual Men
  Top 10 Cancers Among Men
Nutritional Supplement Advisor
  Green Tea Extract
Drug Reference
  Padimate O
  Para-Aminobenzoic Acid, PABA
Cancer Source
  What To Do When You Find a Skin Abnormality
  How Can I Prevent or Detect Skin Cancer?
  Can I Get Checked for Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer?
  What Are the Symptoms of Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer?
  Understanding Your Stage of Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer
  What to Know About Surgery for Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer
  What to Know About Radiation Therapy for Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer
  What to Know About Chemotherapy for Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer
  Do What You Can to Ease Side Effects of Treatment for Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer
  Sunscreen and Skin Cancer
  Understanding the Types of Skin Cancer
  I’ve Just Been Told I Have Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer
  What Is My Prognosis for Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer?
  Tips for Feeling Your Best During and After Treatment for Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer
  FDA-Approved Drugs
Cancer FAQs
  Frequently Asked Questions About Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer
Daily News Feed
  Experimental Melanoma Vaccine Shows Promise in Study
  Health Tip: Are You at Risk for Melanoma?
  Health Tip: Check for Skin Cancer
  Tattoos Can Hide Malignant Melanomas, Experts Say
  Pictures May Help Encourage Skin Cancer Self-Exams
  Scientists ID Molecule Behind Sunburn Pain
  Many Teen Girls Using Tanning Beds: Report
  Research Gets to Root of Redheads' Higher Melanoma Risk
  Many Hispanics Don't Check for Skin Cancer: Study
  Docs Rarely Discuss Sunscreens With Patients, Study Finds
  Skin Cancer Patients Not Avoiding Sun, Study Suggests
  Selecting Sunglasses for Healthy Eyes
  Coping Tips for Winter Skin
  History of Prostate Cancer Tied to Higher Odds for Melanoma
  New Test May Help Predict Survival From Ovarian Cancer
  Tanning Salons Now Outnumber McDonald's Outlets in Florida: Study
  Experimental Treatment for Rare Soft-Tissue Cancer Shows Promise in Mice
  FDA OKs 2-Drug Combo Treatment for Advanced Melanoma
  Mekinist Plus Tafinlar Approved for Late-Stage Melanoma
  1 in 3 Americans Has Used Tanning Beds, Upping Skin Cancer Risk
  Skin Cancer Risk Seen in Vietnam Vets Exposed to Agent Orange
  Lymph Node Test a Good Strategy for Melanoma: Study
  Indoor Tanning Laws Help Keep Teen Girls Away, Study Finds
  Beauty, Not Health May Spur Teens to Use Sunscreen
  Instructional Video Improves Skin Cancer Diagnoses in Older Men: Study
  Skin Cancer May Have Driven Evolution of Black Skin
  After Skin Cancer, Removable Model Replaces Real Ear
  Experimental Drug Helps Body Fight Advanced Melanoma: Study
  Younger Skin Cancer Survivors May Be at Risk for Other Cancers
  Experts Warn About Skin Cancer 'Treatments' Sold Online
  Melanoma Death Risk Higher for Men Living Alone?
  Experimental Drug Shows Early Promise for Some Cases of Advanced Melanoma
  Skin Cancer Prevention Tips
  Nail Salons' Drying Lamps Carry Small Cancer Risk
  Use Your 'ABCDE' to Spot Deadly Skin Cancer
  Just Seeing a Doctor May Boost the Odds of Surviving Melanoma
  It's Better to Prevent a Sunburn Than to Treat One, Dermatologist Says
  Prom Isn't a Good Reason to Hit the Tanning Salon
  Tips for Staying Safe in the Sun
  Animal Trials Show Promise for Treating Eye Cancer
  Indoor Tanning Ups Melanoma Risk, Even Without Burning: Study
  Melanoma Drug Trials Show Significant Promise
  5 or More Bad Sunburns While Young Tied to Higher Melanoma Risk
  FDA Orders New Warning Labels for Tanning Beds
  Medicaid Patients Get Worse Cancer Care, Studies Contend
  Mouse Study Supports Notion of 'Tanning Addiction'
  Indoor Tanning Leads to Early Skin Cancer, Study Says
Adult Diseases and Conditions
  Treatment for Skin Cancer
  Skin Cancer
  Basal Cell Carcinoma
  Causes of Skin Cancer
  Home Page - Skin Cancer
  Online Resources - Skin Cancer
  Other Causes and Risk Factors For Skin Cancer
  Preventing Skin Cancer
  Topic Index - Skin Cancer
  Facts About Skin Cancer
  Types of Skin Cancer
Pediatric Diseases and Conditions
  Skin Cancer in Children
  Treatment for Skin Cancer in Children