Risk factors influence an individual’s likelihood of developing a condition. However, having a risk factor does not confirm the development of the disease. Knowing your risk factor for skin cancer can help you make informed changes to your lifestyle.
Though anyone can get skin cancer, some factors that increase an individual’s risk for the condition include:
Exposure to the sun’s UV radiation is one of the primary risk factors for skin cancer. Besides direct sunlight, tanning beds also significantly increase the risk of skin cancer. So, people who live in areas with year-round sunlight or spend most of their day outdoors without sunscreen or protective clothing are at a greater risk. People with a history of sunburns as a child are at a greater risk of developing skin cancer later in life.
Individuals’ risk for skin cancer increases with age as they accumulate exposure to UV radiation. However, younger people who spend most of their time in the sun are more likely to develop skin cancer.
Individuals with fair skin (especially Caucasians) have a greater risk for skin cancer than non-white individuals. The risk is higher in fair-skinned people having red hair, blue or green eyes and freckled skin.
People whose parents or siblings have skin cancer have a high risk for the condition. Individuals with skin cancer in the past are at a greater risk of re-developing the condition.
People with inherited skin conditions like xeroderma pigmentosum, solar keratosis, psoriasis or eczema have a higher risk of developing skin cancer than others.
Other skin cancer risk factors are weakened immunity, past radiation exposure, greater number of birthmarks or moles, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) infection and exposure to chemicals.
One of the first signs of skin cancer is changes to the skin. Since the symptoms of skin cancer are visible, they are often easy to spot and diagnose. Common symptoms of skin cancer are:
Can Skin Cancer Risks be Reduced?
While you cannot do much about your genetics and family history of skin cancer, here are some things you can do to lower your risk for the condition:
Screening helps detect cancer much before its signs and symptoms appear. Skin cancers are treatable and are usually diagnosed in early stages since they are instantly visible. Skin cancer screening helps detect cancer early and increases the chance of a cure.
Dermatologists recommend screening for skin cancers in people who are at high risk for the condition. The goal of skin cancer screening is an early diagnosis that increases the chances of curing the condition.
The best way to screen for skin cancers is by performing a self-examination. Doctors recommend examining your moles, freckles or birthmarks at least once a month to detect any changes. If you notice any changes, report them to your dermatologist immediately.
When performing a self-examination on your skin, look for the following signs:
Ask your dermatologist about your risk for skin cancer. If you see any worrying signs or symptoms on your skin, visit your dermatologist to get it checked! Get tested today.