Skin Cancer

Frequently Asked Questions

10. What is the most important risk factor for skin cancer?

Skin cancer is caused by DNA damage, which can result from excess exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. Having a previous occurrence of skin cancer or a close family member with the disease also puts you at risk for skin cancer.

Other risk factors include having

  • a weak immune system
  • unusual moles or a large number of moles
  • white or light (fair)-colored skin, especially with freckles
  • blond or red hair or blue or green eyes
  • scars or burns on the skin, or skin diseases that make someone sensitive to the sun.

In 2008 the National Cancer Institute developed a Melanoma Risk Tool which can help patients and their doctors determine their risk. The tool can be found at