Research has shown that people with certain risk factors are more likely than others to develop skin cancer. A risk factor is something that may increase the chance of developing a disease. Some risk factors for skin cancer are controllable such as limiting the time you spend unprotected in the sun, use of protective clothing and sunscreen and avoiding artificial sources of ultraviolet light. Other risk factors, such as skin complexion, age and genetics are not controllable. It is important to be aware of your own individual risk factors for skin cancer and take steps to protect yourself. You may be at higher risk for skin cancer if you:
- Have a fair complexion
- Have a personal or family history of melanoma
- Have a large number of moles
- Have unusual types of moles
- Are older
- Have a history of sunburns early in life
- Tan unprotected in the sun or use sunlamps and sunbeds
Do you know your Skin Type?
It is recommended that you know your skin type so that you can use it as a guide for sun protection. Use the following guidelines to help you determine your own skin type:
Type 1 - Skin that always burns and never tans and is sensitive to sun exposure. People with this skin type have pale white skin and may have blue or hazel eyes, freckles, blond or red hair.
Type 2 – Skin that almost always burns and tans minimally. People with this skin type have white skin and may have blond, red or brown hair and blue, green or hazel eyes.
Type 3 – Skin sometimes burns and sometimes tans in the sun. Usually tans gradually to light brown. People with this skin type have white to olive skin.
Type 4 – Skin that tends to tan easily and is less likely to burn. Usually tans well to moderately brown. People with this skin type may have olive or light brown skin, dark brown hair and dark eyes.
Type 5 – Skin that tans easily and rarely burns. This skin type tans profusely to dark. People with this skin type have dark brown skin.
Type 6 - Dark skin that is deeply pigmented and doesn’t burn. This skin type is the least sensitive to the sun. People with this skin type have very dark brown/black skin or deeply pigmented skin.
People with skin types 1, 2 and 3 are at higher risk of developing skin cancer than those with skin types 4, 5 and 6. However, no one is immune to the damage that can be caused by ultraviolet radiation. It is true that people with darker skin get fewer skin cancers than people with fair skin, but people of all colors can get skin cancer. It is important for everyone to protect themselves by seeking shade between the hours of 1:00 a.m. and 4 p.m., wearing sun protective clothing, using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 and avoiding the use of tanning beds and sunlamps.