Although anyone can get skin cancer, people with certain traits (or risk factors) are more at risk of developing the disease. Some of these risk factors, such as UV ray exposure, can be altered to reduce your chances of developing cancer. But, risk factors such as age, genetic makeup, and natural skin tone, can’t be changed.
Having one, or even multiple, risk factors doesn't mean you are certain to develop skin cancer. But, it does mean you should recognize your heightened probability of developing the disease and reduce any external risk factors that you can. People with more risk factors should also be more vigilant of their skin so that any cancers that may form can be found and treated as early as possible.
It’s important to note that many people with numerous risk factors may never develop skin cancer while some people with no known risk factors will. Just as having a risk factor does not make it certain you will develop skin cancer, not having a risk factor doesn't mean you won’t. This is why, no matter your history or genetic makeup, it is vital to always monitor your skin, see your dermatologist for check ups, and reduce your exposure to as many external risk factors as possible.
Risk factors you can't control but should be aware of:
- Having naturally lighter colored skin, especially if your skin burns, freckles, reddens easily, or becomes painful in the sun.
- Having pale colored eyes (blue or green) and lighter colored hair (blonde or red).
- Naturally having a large number or moles or having particularly large or dark moles.
- Having a family history of skin cancer.
- Having a personal history of skin cancer.
- Being of older age.
Risk factors you can control and should limit as much as possible:
Excessive exposure to UV radiation is the number one cause of skin cancer in the world, regardless of the presence of other risk factors. This is why it is so crucial to live sun-safe and stay covered as much as possible.
People who smoke regularly have been found to be at higher risk of developing certain types of skin cancers, especially on their lips.