More people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the United States than all other cancers combined.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, some are at higher risk for the disease than others. Understanding the factors contributing to those chances of developing skin cancer can help prevent the disease.
“There is a clear connection between ultraviolet rays from the sun and a higher risk of skin cancer,” said Deborah S. Sarnoff, president of The Skin Cancer Foundation. “Everyone should be taking steps to protect themselves, but those with additional risk factors need to be particularly vigilant with their sun protection routine.”
Your skin type
The first major factor affecting one’s risk for skin cancer is skin type. According to the scientific classification known as Fitzpatrick skin typing, there are six types of skin ranging from very fair (type 1) to very dark (type 6).
The system classifies skin based on the amount of melanin or skin pigment a person has, and their skin’s reaction to sun exposure. People with skin types 1 and 2 face the highest risk of developing skin cancer, while those with skin types 5 and 6 are at the lowest risk. Visit SkinCancer.org/quiz to find out your skin type.
Other physical attributes associated with a lack of melanin can contribute to one’s risk of skin cancer as well. Those with red hair, light eyes and freckles also face higher chances to develop the disease.
History of sun exposure
Unprotected exposure to UV rays, whether outside or in a tanning bed, is a key risk factor for skin cancer as well, states a release.
“Sunburns are especially harmful. Just five sunburns can double your risk of developing melanoma, but even if you tan rather than burn, you’re sustaining sun damage that can lead to DNA mutations,” states the release.
Genetics and family history
If one has close relatives who have been diagnosed with skin cancer, it may be a sign one is also at higher risk.
“One in every 10 patients has a family member who has also had the disease,” states the release.
Having many moles is another risk factor for melanoma, especially if they are large (bigger than a pencil eraser) or atypical.
“Having lots of moles and a family history of skin cancer makes a person’s risk even higher. This combination is often referred to as Familial Atypical Multiple Mole Melanoma syndrome,” states the release.
What can you do?
No matter one’s risk factors, The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends a complete sun protection routine including covering up with clothing, hats and UV-blocking sunglasses, seeking shade and avoiding peak sunlight hours.
Other tips include:
• Appling a broad-spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day, and for extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
• Be sure to reapply sunscreen throughout the day, at least every two hours or more often if you are swimming or excessively sweating.
• Examine skin head to toe every month.