What causes skin cancer?

Is what causes skin cancer all the sun's fault?

It has more to do with overexposure than any exposure at all.

The fact is we need the sun to sustain all of life, yet this same sun has the strength to destroy all life when the exposure to its UV rays is excessive.

The dangers of melanoma …and nonmelanoma skin cancer such as basal cell cancer and squamous cell cancer can easily be triggered by sunburn and the effect of cumulative overexposure to the sun.

An Invitation for Skin Cancer

To avoid overexposure, the advice of the medical profession tells us to avoid the sun completely and lather up with sunscreen whenever we step outdoors.


Many people should probably do exactly that or they'll end up with a bad red sunburn like the one above. The best advice is to use good sense and limit your exposure according to your skin cancer risk factor.

Personally, I've experienced stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma and undergone all the treatments including radiation, which puts me a high risk for skin cancer. I still allow myself a very limited amount of exposure and protect my self the rest of the time outdoors.

I've come to realize that there is some common sense missing from most of the advice we hear about causing skin cancer and, in most cases, it's overkill.

Nevertheless, for cautions sake, many should follow this advice.

It's always better to be safe than sorry.

Skin cancer risk factors

Having some of these risk factors, plus abusing your skin with too much sun is likely what causes skin cancer.

How many of these risk factors do you have?

• Skin complexion - light Caucasian skin provides less protection from the sun's rays because it has less protection (melanin). This does not mean dark skinned people will not get skin cancer.

• Color of eyes - light colored eyes such as blue and green are at a higher risk for skin cancer.

• Family history - can be what causes skin cancer in some. If someone in your family had skin cancer, you are at a higher risk.

• Personal history -  If you've had skin cancer once, your risk is higher to have it again.

• Moles and freckles - If you have lot's of moles and freckles, you are at higher risk, for melanoma skin cancer as well as non-melanoma.

• Skin lesions - Lesions on your skin that don't heal, bleed easily and do not go away, usually is precancerous skin damage that could have already become cancerous.

• Sunscreen - Yes, if your sunscreen contains many  toxic chemicals or does not provide the proper protection, it could actually be helping to cause skin cancer.

• The sun - One really bad sunburn as a child or teen can play a role in both melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancer. Overexposure is what causes skin cancer.

• Radiation damaged skin tissue - If you have experienced severe sun burn or undergone radiation therapy, you are susceptible to more sun damage and skin cancer.

• Culture - Countries that have a culture of not shedding most of their clothing and sunbathing have a lower skin cancer rate. Countries with a culture of shedding their clothes, sunbathing and using tanning beds have a higher skin cancer rate.

• Weak immune system - If you have a weak immune system and are in poor health, your risk is high. If you also have some of the other skin cancer risks, your risk is even greater.

See Skin Cancer Causes and learn how to control some of these risk factors before they become a cause of skin cancer for you.

Utraviolet radiation - Overexposure could be what causes skin cancer

You should know this useful information about the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

The sun gives off three types of UV rays. They are A, B, and C.

UVC is the most dangerous to life, but for we who live on this wonderful planet Earth, fortunately there is no threat. UVC rays cannot penetrate the earth’s ozone layer and never reach us.

We do need to be concerned about UVA and UVB rays. The ultraviolet light in UVA is weaker than UVB, however UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin.

We are more likely to be sunburned by UVB rays and it’s been believed that repeated and cumulative exposure is a cause of skin cancer, both melanoma and non-melanoma.

You should never allow your skin to turn any more than a very faint pink. Beyond that, there are no more benefits of vitamin D and sun damage occurs.

UVA rays can further the skin damage leading to skin cancer.

If you were to never get skin cancer, you can be certain that overexposure to ultraviolet rays will cause premature aging, wrinkles and possibly skin lesions.

So much for the healthy glow!

In a nutshell

  • Overexposure to ultraviolet radiation is what can cause skin cancer, sooner or later, depending on your risk factors.
  • Avoiding the sun and lathering on sunscreen is not bad advice if you do not limit the time your skin is exposed to the ultraviolet rays. Common sense and moderation are the best approaches to spending any time in the sun.
  • Know your skin cancer risk factors. The more you have …the more probability you have of getting skin cancer, especially when triggered by the sun.
  • Understanding ultraviolet radiation could prevent you from causing skin cancer.
    UVA rays penetrate deeply and are thought to cause melanoma.
    UVB is needed for your body to naturally produce vitamin D, yet can cause your skin to burn.
    Both UVA and UVB can cause skin cancer.
    Unprotected exposure for a limited time (according to your risk factors) is the most beneficial for you.
    I5 minutes should be the maximum amount of time

If spending a longer time in the sun, the best solution is a sunscreen that blocks against UVA and allows a small amount of UVB to reach your skin. You get all the benefits and avoid the damage!

Links related to What Causes Skin Cancer:

Skin Cancer Causes
Family History
Are Tanning Beds Safe
Tanning Beds and Skin Cancer
Effects of Tanning Beds
Negative Effects of Tanning Beds
Causes of Melanoma
Risk Factors for Skin Cancer
Effects of Ultraviolet Radiation

Go from What Causes Skin Cancer to Home Page
Self Skin Exam 
Safety In The Sun  

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.

Skin Cancer Pictures

Gary's Personal Story

10 Most Frequented Skin Cancer Links

Best Vitamin Supplements
Our Cancer Stories are so Similar Mine and Gary's -by Valerie
Skin Cancer Warning Signs
Mole Cancers
Skin Cancer Survivor Stories
Five Signs of Skin Cancer
Cancerous Moles
Actual History of Skin Cancer
Types of Skin Cancer
Support Groups for Cancer
Amelanotic Melanoma
Updated July 1, 2015


Hi! My name is Nick and I’m 56 yrs. old and this is part of my story. Let me tell you, I was like a lot of people out there and I had no idea that skin cancer was anything bad. I had Basal cell back in 2007, but that was no big deal and it was removed and that was the end of that. No one told me that it was a type of skin cancer (I looked it up on my computer). But still no big deal, it would not kill me.
But I did know the word "Melanoma"....." --by Nick

Read more of Nick's Story

Scared to Death!!! - by Shelly

Our Cancer Stories are so similar, mine and Gary's! - by Valerie  

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Bottom Line
The Weather Channel has done well posting this information and photos to help you spot skin cancer, including melanoma.
It can be hard to spot, even for a professional.
The bottom line is to get an expert's opinion about any suspicious mole or lesion on your skin. If necessary, get a second opinion  and/or request a biopsy. it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Don’t put your very life at risk!