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Am I At Risk for Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer?

There is no way to know for sure if you're going to get skin cancer. Certain factors can make you more likely to get this type of cancer than someone else. These are called risk factors. Some risk factors are out of your control, such as the color of your skin or your age. You can control some risk factors by doing things like protecting yourself from the sun and not using tobacco.

If you agree with any of the following bolded statements, you may be at an increased risk of developing skin cancer.

Each time you agree with a statement, ask yourself if you are doing all that you can to control that particular risk factor. It may seem difficult, but your efforts can have a big payoff when it comes to your health and quality of life. Ask your doctors and loved ones to help think of ways that you can lower your risk for skin cancer.

I have light-colored skin

People with red or blonde hair or green, blue, or gray eyes have an increased risk of skin cancer. That's because if you have one of these features, you're also likely to have light-colored skin. The lighter your skin, the less pigment there is to protect the skin cells from the harmful effects of the sun. But even people with darker skin can get skin cancer.

I am out in the sun a lot

The sun's ultraviolet rays can damage your skin and lead to skin cancer. The more time you spend in the sun, the greater your chances are of getting skin cancer. Your risk is even higher if you have light-colored skin. Almost all nonmelanoma skin cancers develop because people spend too much time in the sun without proper protection.

I have used tanning booths or sunlamps, especially before age 30

These artificial sources of UV rays can also cause damage to the skin, and the risk of cancer is especially high if used at a young age. 

I live in an area close to the equator or at a high elevation

The closer you live to the equator or the higher up you live, the greater your risk of skin cancer. Skin-damaging ultraviolet rays come from the sun. These rays are stronger the higher up you are and the closer you are to the equator.

I have precancerous growths on my skin

People who have had a lot of sun exposure can develop small, crusty growths on the skin. On the lips (usually the lower lip), the normally red skin can appear white, dry, and cracked. You may hear this type of growth called actinic keratosis. Doctors consider these growths to be precancerous. Researchers don't know yet which of these growths will change into skin cancer.

I have had skin cancer before

People with a history of nonmelanoma skin cancers are more likely to get another one. 

I have scars that have been on my skin for many years

Skin that has been damaged already is more likely to develop cancer. This is true mostly for scars from burns.

I have been treated with radiation therapy

Radiation therapy may have already damaged your skin. This makes it more likely that the sun will increase the damage, leading to cancer.

I have been exposed to a lot of arsenic

Arsenic is a metal found in the earth. It is used for insecticides and weed killers. Arsenic can damage your skin, leading to skin cancer. If you have been exposed to a lot of arsenic, you have a greater risk of getting a kind of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma.

I have xeroderma pigmentosum (XP) or basal cell nevus syndrome (Gorlin syndrome)

People who have these rare inherited conditions have a high risk of getting nonmelanoma skin cancers, starting at a young age.

I have reduced immunity

People who take medicines that lower their immunity, such as people who have had organ transplants, are at higher risk for skin cancer.

I smoke

People who smoke have a higher risk of squamous cell carcinoma, especially on the lips. 


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