Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer affecting Australians, with over 1.1 million diagnoses every year, and its incidence has been increasing over the past few decades. While anyone can develop this disease, certain factors increase your risk of developing skin cancer.
What factors increase your risk of developing skin cancer?
Exposure to UV radiation
The most significant risk factor for skin cancer is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds. UV radiation damages the DNA in skin cells, leading to mutations that can cause skin cancer. People who spend a lot of time in the sun or who use tanning beds are at higher risk of developing skin cancer.
Did you know?
People who work outdoors are at 10x greater risk of skin cancer.
People with fair skin, especially those with red or blonde hair, freckles, or blue or green eyes, are at higher risk of developing skin cancer. This is because they have less melanin, the pigment that gives skin its colour, which means they have less natural protection against UV radiation.
History of sunburns
People who have a history of sunburns, particularly blistering sunburns, are at higher risk of developing skin cancer. This is because sunburns cause significant damage to the DNA in skin cells, increasing the risk of mutations that can lead to cancer.
Skin cancer can run in families, so people with a family history of the disease are at higher risk. This may be due to shared genes that increase the risk of developing skin cancer, or because family members may have similar sun exposure habits.
The risk of skin cancer increases with age, and people over 40 are most at risk. This may be due to accumulated damage to skin cells over time, as well as changes in the immune system that make it harder to detect and eliminate cancerous cells.
Weakened immune system
People with weakened immune systems, such as those who have had an organ transplant, are at higher risk of developing skin cancer. This is because the immune system plays a critical role in detecting and eliminating cancerous cells.
Other risk factors
Other factors that increase your risk of skin cancer include:
- Being male
- Having a previous skin cancer diagnosis
- Having lots of moles on your skin
- Spending lots of time outdoors
- Using a solarium
While these risk factors increase the likelihood of developing skin cancer, it’s important to remember that anyone can get this disease. Protecting your skin from UV radiation by wearing protective clothing, using sunscreen, and avoiding tanning beds can help reduce your risk. Regular skin checks with a trained doctor using dermoscopy help detect skin cancer early, when it’s most treatable.