Anyone can develop skin cancer, but it is more common in older people. The risk is also higher in people who have:
- Fair or freckled skin, especially if it burns easily and doesn’t tan
Red or fair hair and light-coloured eyes (blue or green)
Short, intense periods of exposure to UV radiation, e.g. on weekends or holidays or when playing sport, especially if it caused sunburn
Actively tanned or used solariums
A weakened immune system, due to taking certain medicines after an organ transplant (immunosuppressants) or by ongoing blood conditions that affect one’s immune system.
Many moles on their body or moles with an irregular shape and uneven colour (dysplastic naevi)
Previous skin cancer or a family history of skin cancer
Certain skin conditions such as sunspots.
People with olive or very dark skin have more protection against UV radiation because their skin produces more melanin than fair skin does BUT they can still develop skin cancer. Low risk does not mean NO risk, especially if they do not have sun protection measures in place.
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)
This starts in the basal cells of the epidermis. It makes up about 70% of non-melanoma skin cancers. BCC grows slowly over months or years and rarely spreads to other parts of the body. The earlier a BCC is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat. If left untreated, it can grow deeper into the skin and damage nearby tissue, making treatment more difficult. Having one BCC increases the risk of getting another. It is possible to have more than one BCC at the same time on different parts of the body.
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)
This starts in the squamous cells of the epidermis. It makes up about 30% of non-melanoma skin cancers. SCC tends to grow quickly over several weeks or months. If left untreated, SCC
can spread to other parts of the body. This is known as invasive SCC. SCC on the lips and ears is more likely to spread.
This starts in the melanocyte (pigment producing) cells of the skin. It makes up 1–2% of all skin cancers. Although melanoma is a less common type of skin cancer, it is considered the most serious because it grows quickly and is more likely to spread to other parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes, lungs, liver, brain and bones, especially if not found early. The earlier melanoma is found, the more successful treatment is likely to be.