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Skin cancer risk assessment


Reviewed 4/7/2021

Skin cancer risk assessment

While anyone can get skin cancer, some factors can raise your risk. Knowing about those risk factors may help you avoid the disease or take steps to find it early.

To learn more about your skin cancer risk factors, answer the following questions.

This assessment is not a substitute for a visit with your healthcare provider. If you have questions about your risk for skin cancer, talk with your provider, regardless of the results listed here.

Do you spend a lot of time in the sun without protecting your skin?

YES: Over time, excess exposure to the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays can raise your risk for skin cancer, especially if you don't take steps to protect your skin. These steps can help you protect your skin:

  • Limit direct exposure to the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when UV rays are strongest.
  • Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen to exposed skin. Use sunscreen year-round and reapply every 2 hours (or every hour after heavy sweating or being in the water).
  • Wear sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat and protective clothing.

Source: American Society of Clinical Oncology

NO: Good for you! Guarding against ultraviolet (UV) exposure may help decrease your risk of skin cancer, which accumulates over a lifetime.

Source: American Society of Clinical Oncology

Do you have a light skin tone, red or blond hair, blue eyes, and freckles?

YES: People with these skin, hair and eye characteristics have an increased skin cancer risk.

Source: American Society of Clinical Oncology

NO: Your skin, hair and eye color don't appear to increase your risk for skin cancer. But it's important to remember that people with darker skin, hair and eye colors, as well as people of all races and ethnicities, can get skin cancer.

Source: American Society of Clinical Oncology

Do you use indoor tanning beds, parlors or sunlamps?

YES: These artificial sources of UV radiation can damage your skin, just like the sun's UV rays.

Source: American Society of Clinical Oncology

NO: Good for you! Indoor tanning equipment exposes you to unsafe UV rays, just like those from the sun.

Source: American Society of Clinical Oncology

Do you have a lot of moles, especially atypical moles?

YES: Having 10 or more atypical moles, especially unusual-looking moles, called dysplastic nevi, raises the risk of melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. If you have these moles, you and your doctor may want to watch your skin more carefully for changes that might be early warning signs of skin cancer.

Sources: American Society of Clinical Oncology; Skin Cancer Foundation

NO: You do not appear to have this risk factor. But keep in mind that skin cancer can develop on skin with few or no moles.

Source: American Society of Clinical Oncology

Do you have a family history of melanoma?

YES: If a close family member (parent, sibling or child) was diagnosed with melanoma, your risk is higher.

Source: American Society of Clinical Oncology

NO: Some people with melanoma have a family history of the disease. But you can be at risk even if melanoma doesn't run in your family.

Source: American Society of Clinical Oncology

Have you had a lot of sunburns or do you burn easily?

YES: Skin cancer risk increases when there is a history of sunburns or if a person sunburns easily. Skin damage increases over your lifetime. So the more sunburns you have, the greater your risk.

Source: American Society of Clinical Oncology

NO: That's great! It sounds like you may be protecting your skin by avoiding sunburns or that your skin doesn't burn easily.

Source: American Society of Clinical Oncology

Are you older than 50?

YES: Most skin cancers are diagnosed after age 50, but you can get this disease at any age. Melanoma—the most dangerous skin cancer—is one of the most common cancers among young adults.

Sources: American Cancer Society ; American Society of Clinical Oncology

NO: Skin cancer risk rises with age, but you can get this disease if you are young, especially if you have other lifestyle or family history risk factors. The most dangerous skin cancer—melanoma—is actually one of the most common cancers among young adults.

Sources: American Cancer Society ; American Society of Clinical Oncology

Have you had skin cancer before?

YES: Having a previous skin cancer raises your risk for another one.

Source: American Society of Clinical Oncology

NO: That's good. But keep in mind that anyone can get skin cancer, even healthy people who have never had the disease.

Source: American Society of Clinical Oncology

Results

If you answered yes to any of the questions: Your answers suggest that you have some risk factors for skin cancer.

You should talk to your doctor about these risk factors and ask if you need skin cancer screening. You may also want to learn more about how to protect your skin from the sun.

This assessment is not a substitute for a visit with your healthcare provider. If you have questions about your risk for skin cancer, talk with your provider, regardless of the results listed here.

If you answered no to all of the questions: Based on your answers, you don't appear to have any skin cancer risk factors listed in this assessment. But your risk factors can change over time, so it's a good idea to keep tabs on your risk. And remember: Anyone can get skin cancer, even those without any of the risk factors listed here. That's why it's still important to get to know your skin and keep an eye out for unusual changes.

This assessment is not a substitute for a visit with your healthcare provider. If you have questions about your risk for skin cancer, talk with your provider, regardless of the results listed here.

MORE INFORMATION

Learning the signs of skin cancer may help you find it early, when treatment may work best.

View the infographic

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