Skin Cancer | Causes & Risk Factors


What are the risk factors for skin cancer?

A number of factors may put you at higher risk of having skin cancer:

  • Having fair skin, red or blond hair
  • Having light-colored eyes
  • Sunburning easily
  • Having many moles, freckles or birthmarks
  • Working or playing outside
  • Being in the sun a lot as a child
  • Having had a serious sunburn
  • Having had skin cancer, or having family members who have had skin cancer
  • Tanning in the sun or with a sunlamp

Who gets melanoma?

Anyone can get melanoma, but some people are more likely to get it. If you answer "yes" to any of the questions below, you may be more at risk. Talk with your doctor about your risk factors.

  • Has anyone in your family had cancerous moles or a melanoma?
  • Do you have many moles larger than a pencil eraser?
  • Do you have more than 50 moles of any size?
  • Did you ever get a bad sunburn that caused blisters when you were a child?
  • Does your skin usually burn but not tan?


See a list of resources used in the development of this information.

Written by editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 02/11
Created: 01/96