Understanding Fitzpatrick Skin Types

You may be familiar with classifications such as dry, oily or combination skin, but as part of our series of blogs for being Skin Aware, we’re here to talk about Fitzpatrick Skin Types – a skin classification scale to help you better understand your skin cancer risk.

Types of skin cancer 

Skin cancer can be broadly categorised as ‘non-melanoma’ or ‘melanoma’. Non-melanoma refers to a slow-growing type of skin cancer that affects the upper layers of the skin, whereas melanoma is a more serious type of skin cancer that can spread to other parts of the body. Around 65% of melanomas and 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers are caused by UV damage from sun exposure or sunbeds1. Knowing your Fitzpatrick skin type can help you understand how susceptible your skin is to sun damage, so you can take the appropriate action to protect yourself against harmful UV exposure.

What is the Fitzpatrick scale? 

Developed in 1975, the Fitzpatrick scale is used by dermatologists, plastic surgeons and skin health professionals as a way to classify your skin type based on six categories, as shown below. While anyone can get skin cancer regardless of their skin type, those with skin types I-II are considered to be at higher risk.

Fitzpatrick Skin Types

Protecting yourself from skin cancer

A leading cause of skin cancer is exposure to harmful UV rays that are given off by the sun (and by sunbeds). Sunburn and a tan are both signs of UV damage to the skin. You can protect yourself from skin cancer by limiting your exposure to UV rays, and never using sunbeds. Applying sunscreen, seeking shade and wearing protective clothing, sunglasses and hats all help to shield your skin from the sun’s UV rays when you are outdoors.

While fair skin is considered higher risk, it is important to remember even those with olive or dark skin can still be affected by skin cancer. Taking precautions to protect yourself from harmful UV exposure can help to reduce your risk of skin cancer – whatever your skin type.

Stay skin safe by checking yourself for changes in skin texture or colour, or any mole changes, once a month. If you are concerned about the appearance of your skin or a mole, visit Check4Cancer for more information on skin cancer, or book a SkinCheck with one of our skin specialists today.


1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3709783/