7 traits that may increase skin cancer risk

Know the risks for skin cancer.

As we head into summer, it’s important to remind ourselves about sun safety and detecting skin cancer early. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Melanoma, a type of skin cancer, causes the most deaths out of all types of skin cancer, the CDC warns. It occurs when the cells that give skin its color begin growing out of control, the American Cancer Society explains. And while melanoma is less common than other types of skin cancers, it’s more dangerous. If melanoma isn’t detected and treated early, it’s more likely to spread to other areas of the body.

Skin cancer risk factors

Excess exposure to sunlight and other forms of UV radiation is a risk factor for skin cancers, including melanoma. Skin cancer can affect people of all skin tones, including those with darker complexions. If individuals with darker skin tones have melanoma, it's often found in areas that are not usually exposed to sun, like the palms of hands or the soles of feet, Mayo Clinic explains.

In the United States, the hours between 10 am and 4 pm are the most hazardous for UV exposure. Along with excess UV exposure, these seven characteristics put you at a greater risk for skin cancer:


A lighter natural skin color


Skin that burns, freckles, reddens easily, or becomes painful in the sun


Blue or green eyes


Blond or red hair


Certain types and a large number of moles


A family history of skin cancer


A personal history of skin cancer

How to protect yourself

Here's what the American Cancer Society recommends:

  • Stay in the shade.
  • Wear clothes that covers your arms and legs.
  • Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) at a minimum of 15 or higher and both UVA and UVB (broad spectrum) protection. Most dermatologists recommend an SPF of 30 or higher for general protection.
  • Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours and after going in the water.
  • Avoid tanning beds and sun lamps.

When detected early, skin cancer, including melanoma, is curable. Talk to your primary care physician to see what tests might be appropriate for you to prevent or treat skin cancer. For more information, Sharp Health News created this infographic on the ABCDEs of how to check yourself for potential signs of melanoma.

Don’t miss important information on other National Health Observances

The key to staying healthy is prevention. That’s why we promote National Health Observances every month to help spread awareness and keep our members healthy. Learn more about men’s health and six early signs of childhood autism.

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