Basal cell carcinoma causes and risk factors

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These factors increase your risk

UV exposure from the sun

The lesions commonly arise in areas of the body that are excessively exposed to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun, such as the head (scalp and face) and neck. Occasional extended, intense sun exposure that leads to sunburn and cumulative sun exposure over your lifetime are the main causes of skin damage that can lead to basal cell carcinoma.

If your occupation requires long hours outdoors or if you spend your leisure time in the sun, your risk increases even more.

Indoor tanning

Tanning beds also emit UV radiation that is dangerous and raises your risk of developing skin cancer.

  • Those who have tanned indoors have a 29% increased risk of developing basal cell carcinoma
  • If you have a history of indoor tanning, your chances of developing basal cell carcinoma before the age of 40 are increased by 70%

History of skin cancer

People who have had a basal or squamous cell cancer are at risk for developing others over the years, either in the same area or elsewhere on the body.

Age over 50

As you age, you accumulate sun exposure and damage, raising your risk of developing basal cell carcinoma. During the past few decades, this type of cancer is becoming more common in younger people, a trend that experts attribute to increased outdoor UV exposure and indoor tanning.

Fair skin

People with fair skin have an increased risk.

Anyone can get skin cancer, but people with light-colored skin have a much higher risk than people with naturally darker skin color. Especially individuals with fair skin that freckles or burns easily, blue or green eyes, and naturally red or blonde hair have an increased risk of developing the disease.

Male gender:

Men are more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma.

Men with basal cell carcinoma continue to outnumber women with the disease, but more women are now getting basal cell carcinoma than in the past.

Chronic infections and skin inflammation from burns, scars and other conditions.

Scars from severe burns, areas of skin over serious bone infections, and skin damaged by some severe inflammatory skin diseases are more likely to develop skin cancers, although this risk is generally small.

Inherited syndromes that cause skin cancer

Certain rare genetic (present at birth) conditions can increase the risk of basal cell carcinoma, including nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome (Gorlin-Goltz syndrome) and xeroderma pigmentosum.

Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get skin cancer. Many people with risk factors for skin cancer never get it. And some people who do get it may have few or no known risk factors.

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