What Causes Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer is a very common type of cancer, and the number of cases is increasing day by day. Cancer is defined as the uncontrollable growth of skin cells. Healthy cells grow properly and divide in an organized way while the cancer cells grow abnormally and divide in a fast, haphazard manner. This speedy division results in lumps or tumors that are either benign or malignant. 

Skin cancer has the following three types:

  • Basal cell cancer
  • Squamous cell cancer
  • Melanoma

The former two types are less serious types and cause 95% of all skin related cancers. They stated as non-melanoma skin cancers, very much curable when treated timely.

Abnormal skin pigment cells, melanocytes cause melanoma that is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. 75% of deaths by cancer happen because of melanoma. If not treated well, it can spread to other body parts and is problematic to control.


Following are causes of both Basal and Squamous skin cancers:

Ultraviolet (UV) light exposure

  • Sunlight produces ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which results in skin cell damage. It is thought to be the leading factor of most skin cancers. People who have a high level of sun or UV light exposure are at high risk of developing skin cancer. 
  • Tanning booths and lamps are other sources of UV radiations. 
  • There are many factors such as the strength of UV radiation, duration of exposure and whether the skin was protected with sunscreen or clothes.
  • Those people are at risk that lives in areas where sunlight is bright and continuous. For example, the chances of skin cancer are greater in Arizona as compared to Minnesota. 
  • In entire world statistics, the maximum rate of skin cancer is in Australia. The reason is that the majority spend a lot of time enjoying sunbathe on beaches and outdoor without covering their body.

Older age

The danger of skin cancers increases as you get older. Aged people have been exposed to the harmful radiations of the sun for a longer time.

Fair skin

The danger of skin cancer for white people is greater than dark people. Dark-skinned people have more melanin, which helps protect against UV radiations. 


Men are more likely to have skin cancer as compared to women. The reason could be because of more time spent in the sun. 


Arsenic is a metal used to make insecticides and exposure to it can cause skin cancer. Labors exposed to industrial coal, tar, paraffin, and specific oils may have at risk, too.

Skin problems

Skin burnt scars, skin from bad bone infections, skin disease or damage by skin diseases has more chances of developing into skin cancer. However, the risk is fairly small but one should be careful. 

Weakened immune system

Those with a weak immune system have higher chances of developing melanoma skin cancer. For example, people who went through an organ transplant, take medicines to make the immune system weak. If they don’t do that, their body is more likely to reject the organ. These people have more chances of developing melanoma skin cancer. This cancer tends to grow faster and fatal in nature. 


Excessive smoking can cause squamous skin cancer but there is no evidence of basal cell cancer from smoking.


There is not any exact evidence about what causes melanoma skin cancer, but there are certain risk factors associated with this disease. Most of the above-mentioned factors such as age, gender, fair skin, HIV exposure, etc. can be the risks of melanoma skin cancer too. Though, there are a few other important factors which are specifically related to melanoma cancer.

The following are possible reasons for having melanoma skin cancer:


Medically called “Nevus” is a benign skin tumor. Specific kinds of moles are related to melanoma skin cancer. Though the chances of a simple mole turning into melanoma skin cancer are very low, but someone with excessive moles is at risk. A thorough skin examination is necessary every month. It is always recommended to use sunblock to protect skin from the sun. 

Family history of melanoma

10% of patients having melanoma have a blood relative with the same disease. Precautionary measures should be taken, if someone in your family has melanoma. Try to do the following things:

  • Visit dermatologist every month and have a regular skin checkup.
  • Self-examination of skin is a must to check if there is an issue.
  • Be extra careful about direct sun exposure.

Having had melanoma in the past

If a person has a history of melanoma, he is at more risk of developing it again.

Xeroderma pigmentosum (XP)

XP is a rare condition which is mostly inherited. People with XP are unable to repair sunlight damages and are more vulnerable to develop melanoma and other skin cancers.


The risk factors do not tell us everything about cancers. Having a risk factor does not confirm that you will develop cancer. Many people who develop cancers do not have even a single known risk factor. Even if a person develops the disease after having a risk factor, it is hard to estimate how much the factor contributed to cancer.

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