Who is at risk of skin cancer?

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK and rates of skin cancer are increasing faster than any other cancer in the UK, with figures doubling every 10-20 years¹. Over 80% of all skin cancers are caused by over-exposure to UV radiation from the sun and/or sunbeds. This means that the majority of all skin cancers are preventable by undertaking simple sun safety measures.

In recognition of Sun Awareness Week this May, Check4Cancer is sharing a series of blogs exploring the WHO, WHAT, WHY and HOW of skin cancer.  In our first blog, we explore the question: who is at risk of skin cancer?

  1. Skin Type

Your skin type is a major contributing factor to your risk of sun damage and developing skin cancer. Certain types of skin are at greater risk of sun damage and therefore have a higher risk of developing the disease. However, all skin types can be damaged by over-exposure to UV radiation and therefore to varying degrees we are ALL at risk of developing skin cancer.

People who are at greater risk of developing skin cancer typically tend to have one or more of the following:

  • Fair skin that burns easily
  • Red or fair hair
  • Lots of moles and/or freckles
  • A history of sunburn
  1. Family History

Anyone with a family history of skin cancer has an increased risk of developing skin cancer.

  1. Age

Skin cancer used to be most prevalent amongst the 50+ age group, which is the most common age for most cancers to strike. Recent research has shown that malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of the disease, is now one of the most common cancers in young adults, aged between 15-34 in the UK.

  1. At Risk Groups

Outdoor workers

While occupational risks are inherent in many jobs, workers who make a living outdoors are often in the sun and will be subject to an increased threat of skin cancer from repeated over-exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays.

Outdoor sports

Whether playing or watching outdoor sports or enjoying outdoor recreation on a regular basis, not using adequate sun protection can significantly increase your exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays, increasing the risk of skin cancer later in life.

Rates of malignant melanoma in the UK have risen faster than any other common cancer over the last 25 years with more people dying from skin cancer than in Australia. More than 12,000 cases of Melanoma, the deadliest form of the disease, are diagnosed every year in the UK and over 2,000 will die from the disease this year alone².

Understanding these skin cancer risk factors can help you make changes to your lifestyle,  Just because you have a risk factor doesn’t necessarily mean you will develop skin cancer, but it is important to be aware of the risk factors. If you are worried about skin cancer, Check4Cancer offers SkinCheck, which is a skin cancer screening service for anyone aged 18+  who would like the appearance of their skin or moles checked by a skin cancer specialist.   Early detection saves lives and you can find out more about SkinCheck here.


¹ https://www.skcin.org/skinCancerInformation/theProblemAndFacts.htm

² https://www.skcin.org/skinCancerInformation/theProblemAndFacts.htm