Skin cancer Causes

Most skin cancers are caused by exposure to the sun. This may be long term exposure, or short periods of intense sun exposure and burning. Look at the preventing skin cancer page in this section for lots of information about how to protect your skin from the sun.

The ultraviolet light in sunlight damages the DNA in the skin cells. This damage can happen years before a cancer develops. The sun’s rays contain 3 types of ultraviolet light.

  • UVA makes up most of our natural sun light. It goes deeper into the skin and causes skin ageing. It is now also linked to skin cancer
  • UVB is most likely to burn the skin and is the main cause of non melanoma skin cancer
  • UVC is filtered out by the atmosphere of the earth (ozone layer)

People who work outdoors have a greater risk of skin cancer as they are exposed to the sun for long periods of time. Fair-skinned people have a greater risk than black- or brown-skinned people. This is because the pigment in darker skin gives protection.

Regularly using sunbeds and sunlamps can also increase the risk of developing some skin cancers.

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