Ultraviolet Radiation

It is estimated that around 90% of all skin cancers are associated with solar and artificial ultraviolet radiation (UVR) exposure—a modifiable and preventable risk factor.


In addition to skin cancer, overexposure to UVR can also cause premature skin aging, eye damage, a weakened immune system and a significantly increased risk of a recurrent skin cancer or second primary cancer.

Overexposure to UVR is the most important cause of the three main forms of skin cancer: melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.1 With UVR accounting for an estimated 90% of melanoma (the deadliest skin cancer) cases in North America.2

View References

  • 1 International Agency for Research on Cancer. IARC monographs on the evaluation of carcinogenic risks to humans. Volume 100D. A review of human carcinogens. Part D: Radiation. Lyon: International Agency for Research on Cancer, 2012.
  • 2  Armstrong BK, Kricker A. How much melanoma is caused by sun exposure? Melanoma Res 1993;3(6):395-401.

Skin Types

The pigmentation characteristics of your skin play a huge role in determining your risk of skin cancer. The fairer your skin is, the higher the risk.24 So it's important that you know what your skin type is and understand the risks.

Nevi (benign moles or freckles)

Nevi are benign melanocytic tumours, also known as moles. They are strongly associated with risk for Melanoma. The greater the number of nevi on a person's skin, the greater the risk of melanoma. An individual who has more than 100 common nevi or more than two atypical nevi has a five- to twenty-fold increased risk of melanoma.25

Pale White

Red-headed, freckles, Irish/Scots/Welsh

Always burns easily, never tans, extremely sun sensitive skin


Fair-skinned, fair-haired, blue or green-eyed, Caucasians

Always burns easily, tans minimally, very sun sensitive skin

Medium White

Medium white skin

Sometimes burns, tans gradually to light brown, sun sensitive skin

Beige or lightly tanned

Mediterranean-type Caucasians, some Hispanics, some East Asians

Burns minimally, always tans to moderate brown, minimally sun sensitive

Moderate brown

Some Middle Eastern, some Hispanics, some African-Canadians, some Aboriginals, some East Asians

Rarely burns, tans well, sun insensitive skin or tanned

Dark brown or black skin

African- Canadians, some Aboriginals, some Middle Eastern

Never burns, deeply pigmented, sun insensitive

View References

  • 24 Hill, D., Elwood, J. M., & English, D. R. (2004). Who gets skin cancer: Individual risk factors. Prevention of skin cancer (p. 3). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
  • 25 Bataille, V., & de Vries, E. (2008). Melanoma—Part 1: Epidemiology, risk factors, and prevention. British Medical Journal, 337, 2249.

Family History

A family history of melanoma, or having a first degree relative (like a parent or sibling) with melanoma, is associated with a two to four times increase in risk of melanoma.(45-47) Familial melanoma accounts for 5% to 10% of cases and is often diagnosed at a younger age.

View References

  • 45 Gandini S, Sera F, Cattaruzza MS, Pasquini P, Zanetti R, Masini C, et al. Meta-analysis of risk factors for cutaneous melanoma: III. Family history, actinic damage and phenotypic factors. Eur J Cancer 2005;41(14):2040-59.
  • 46 Olsen CM, Carroll HJ, Whiteman DC. Familial melanoma: a meta-analysis and estimates of attributable fraction. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2010;19(1):65-73.
    47    Ford D, Bliss JM, Swerdlow AJ, Armstrong BK, Franceschi S, Green A, et al. Risk of cutaneous melanoma associated with a family history of the disease. The International Melanoma Analysis Group (IMAGE). Int J Cancer 1995;62(4):377-81.