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Causes of Skin Cancer: Everything You Need to Know

    Causes of Skin Cancer: Everything You Need to Know

    Despite being curable, it is important for people to take precautionary measures to prevent skin cancer. One of the best ways to do this would be to steer clear of the different causes of skin cancer.

    But what things can cause skin cancer, and what can you do to avoid them? Read on to learn more.

    5 Common causes of skin cancer

    Just like other forms of cancer, skin cancer develops as a result of mutations in skin cells. Here are some things that can trigger those mutations potentially cause skin cancer:

    Exposure to the sun

    Exposure to the sun is one of the most common causes of skin cancer. Not only because we are exposed to sunlight during the day, even while we are indoors, but because sunlight emits ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

    UVC is the most dangerous form of UV light, but thankfully the earth’s atmosphere acts as a barrier and prevents UVC from reaching us. The ozone layer also filters out most UVB rays but UVA is able to pass through. UVA light is the weakest but most constantly emitted, so it causes more long-term effects attributed to frequent sun exposure such as wrinkles and age spots.

    On the other hand, UVB is responsible for the majority of skin cancers. Unlike UVA which emits weaker radiation, UVB light is more intense and directly damages the structure of DNA in skin cells.

    This risk also extends to using tanning beds, or being exposed to artificial sources of UV light.

    The best way to avoid this would be to avoid unnecessary exposure to sunlight. Wearing caps, long-sleeved clothing, and pants can also prevent exposure to UV rays. Wearing sunscreen when going out also helps make sure that you’re protected against the sun’s rays.

    Having a lot of moles

    Surprisingly, one of the possible causes of skin cancer is having a lot of moles. While it is normal to have a few moles, some can become cancerous, especially if they’re particularly large or irregularly shaped.

    Therefore, it is important to pay attention to your moles, because if one of them starts to “move” or grow without any explanation, it might be a good idea to get it looked at.

    A family history of skin cancer

    Skin cancer is also a hereditary condition. Meaning, if one of your close relatives develops skin cancer, then you have an increased risk of developing skin cancer.

    If your parents or siblings had or have cancer, it would be a good idea to be extra careful when it comes to your skin. Additionally, it would also be best to get screened for cancer as you get older, so that you can head off any possible illness before it gets worse.

    Having fair skin

    Anyone can develop skin cancer, regardless of their skin tone. However, having fair skin increases a person’s risk of skin cancer.

    Having fair skin means that there is less melanin, which is a pigment that protects a person’s skin from ultraviolet rays. Therefore, fair-skinned people (especially those with naturally red or ginger hair) need to be more careful with UV exposure because less melanin means less protection, and less protection leads to a higher risk of skin cancer like melanoma.

    Exposure to radiation or chemicals

    Lastly, certain forms of radiation as well as some chemicals are some of the possible causes of skin cancer.

    Patients who have undergone radiotherapy treatment can have an increased risk of skin cancer.

    Exposure to arsenic, a harmful chemical, can also increase a person’s risk of skin cancer. In addition, some types of medication can increase a person’s sensitivity to sunlight. This can increase their risk of skin cancer, because their skin is more sensitive to the UV rays being put out by the sun.

    Key Takeaways

    Avoiding the causes of skin cancer can help significantly lower your risk of developing this disease. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so it’s best to take steps to prevent skin cancer in the first place.

    Learn more about cancer, here.

    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


    Skin cancer – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/skin-cancer/symptoms-causes/syc-20377605, Accessed June 4, 2021

    Causes of melanoma – NHS, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/melanoma-skin-cancer/causes/, Accessed June 4, 2021

    Skin Cancer Information – The Skin Cancer Foundation, https://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/, Accessed June 4, 2021

    Basal and Squamous Cell Skin Cancer Causes | What Causes Skin Cancer?, https://www.cancer.org/cancer/basal-and-squamous-cell-skin-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/what-causes.html, Accessed June 4, 2021

    Skin Cancer From Sun Exposure: Risk Factors, Symptoms & Prevention, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/10985-sun-exposure–skin-cancer, Accessed March 22, 2021UV Radiation https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/features/uv-radiation-safety/index.html Accessed June 4, 2021

    Melanocortin 1 receptor gene https://dermnetnz.org/topics/melanocortin/ Accessed June 4, 2021

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    Written by Jan Alwyn Batara Updated Jun 04, 2021
    Medically reviewed by John Paul Abrina, MD