How to Know If You're High Risk for Skin Cancer

Close up of a woman with freckles How to Know If You're High Risk for Skin Cancer

Skin cancer can affect nearly anyone, but there are individuals more at risk than others due to several factors. Knowing those factors and if you are high risk can help you take extra precautions in the sun. The dermatologists at the Dermatology & Mohs Surgery Institute are here to help you learn who is at risk, how to prevent yourself from getting skin cancer, and what to do if you get it.

How to Tell You're At-Risk for Cancer

Skin Cancer Risk Factors

Skin cancer is a deadly disease caused by the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. Anyone can get it at any time, but there are certain risk factors that increase your likelihood of getting it. The most common risk factors include tanning beds, sunburns, not wearing sunscreen, and those with fair skin or red hair.

Using indoor tanning beds is very commonly linked to skin cancer. Although many believe the UV light is not as harmful as the sun, it is often just as harmful, if not more so. Sunburns occur from not protecting your skin properly or enough. Sunscreen should be used daily even if you don’t plan on being in direct sunlight. Using an SPF of 30 or higher can protect your skin even when you are not in direct sunlight. Sunburns can happen even if you are wearing sunscreen. If you know your skin is more susceptible to sunburns, try and stay in the shade when possible. Sunglasses and protective clothing should also be worn if you are at high risk for sunburn. Additionally, sunscreen should be reapplied often if you have been in water.

For individuals with fair skin and red hair, you have high risk of getting a sunburn even if you do wear sunscreen. It is even more important for these individuals to wear sunscreen, protective clothing, and find shade to ensure they stay safe and avoid sunburns.

Signs of Skin Cancer

If you often get sunburns, you should pay extra close attention to your skin and get annual skin exams with your dermatologist. The most common sign of skin cancer is atypical moles on your body. When examining the moles on your body, you will want to first check for asymmetry. If you can’t evenly split the mole in half, it is asymmetrical and can be a cause for concern. Next, you will want to look at the border of the mole to see if it looks different than normal. Then you will want to look at the color of it. If it has become really dark, it may also be a sign of skin cancer. Also, look at the diameter of the mole. Has it changed in size? If so, that could be problematic. Lastly, you will want to examine the evolution of the mole. Has it changed over time in one or many ways? If you notice any of these signs, you will want to contact a dermatologist for them to do a thorough look through. They can then do skin cancer tests to determine if you have it. If you do have skin cancer, they can begin treatment as soon as possible, as skin cancer is known to spread quickly.


Do not be another victim of skin cancer. Let the dermatologists at the Dermatology & Mohs Surgery Institute help ease your mind. If you are in Bloomington, Illinois, or the surrounding areas, complete this form, and we will be in touch.

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