Skip Navigation


Prevention Strategies

Know Your Risk

Do you know the three major factors that increase your risk of developing skin cancer? The first is your skin type or how easily your skin is damaged by the sun, the second is where you live, and the third is what you do when you relax.

Who You Are
+ Where You Live
+ What You Do
Personal Risk
Factor for Sun
Damage

Who You Are

Everyone’s skin can be damaged because of sun exposure. One way to measure your risk is by your skin’s likelihood to burn, which can be determined on this six point scale.1 People with Skin Types I and II are at the highest risk.

Skin Type I Skin Type II Skin Type III Skin Type IV Skin Type V Skin Type VI
Always burns, never tans, sensitive to sun exposure Burns easily, tans minimally Burns moderately, tans gradually to light brown Burns minimally, always tans well to moderately brown Rarely burns, tans profusely to dark Never burns, deeply pigmented, least sensitive

Other risk factors include:

  • Blond or red hair
  • Blue, green or gray eyes
  • Skin that freckles easily
  • Many moles; large moles
  • Family members with melanoma
  • Male

Note that people with darker skin are also at risk for skin cancer and the aging effects of the sun. Their risk is just not as high as people who have lighter skin and the other risk factors. UV increases with elevation

Where You Live

Regions closer to the equator, higher in elevation and with many dry, sunny days increase the UV radiation exposure people receive each day. If you are in the mountains, you have even less protection as UV radiation increases by 5% for every 1000 feet above sea level. For example, at an altitude of 10,000 feet, UV is 50 percent more intense than at sea level. Know that UV intensity changes at each location.

What You Do

Your recreational activities also have an effect on your skin cancer risk. People who spend time outside recreating increase their risk for skin cancer because of increased UV exposure. Other things you do can increase (tanning) or decrease (sun protection) your risk. If your vacation plans involve spending lots of time outdorrs, be sure to pack along essential sun protection items, such as hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen.

1: Fitzpatrick TB. Arch Dermatol. Jun 1988:124(6):869-71.