alt=a woman with moles on her body lies in a tanning bed smoking a cigarette

Sun Isn’t the Only Cause of Skin Cancer

Last updated: November 2022

Many people think of the sun’s harmful rays causing skin cancer - and they’d be right. But there are other factors that can cause it, as well. In fact, the sun isn’t the only cause of skin cancer. Read more to find out what things cause it, and what you can do to negate some risks.

Tanning beds, too, cause skin cancer

We can get the most obvious other risk factor out of the way first. Tanning beds are not only as harmful as the sun, some claim that they are even more harmful. According to U.S. Food and Drug Administration, your tanning beds and the sun cause ultraviolet waves. When you’re outdoors getting a tan, you have UVB rays affecting your skin. When you use a tanning bed, you get more of the UVA rays, although tanning beds emit some of both of the ultraviolet wavelengths.1

So, while the sun exposes you to harmful UVB rays, with a tanning bed you get exposure to both. What’s the difference? UV rays mean ultraviolet rays. Both harm the skin, yet there are differences. UVA rays’ wavelengths are longer. They contribute to the skin becoming aged. The UVB rays are simply shorter in wavelength and cause the skin to burn.2

Which one does a tanning bed emit? Both, although mostly it’s the UVA rays. But it’s important to know that the UVA radiation is up to three times more intense than the UVA in natural sunlight, and even the UVB intensity may approach that of bright sunlight.3

Smoking

We all know smoking is harmful to our bodies. But did you know it can also contribute to skin cancer development? What happens is that it damages the skin and increases the risk of melanoma and basal cell carcinoma.4

It’s not that it’s a risk in itself. Smoking doesn’t cause basal cell carcinoma. But it is an independent risk factor in squamous cell carcinoma, especially in areas around the lips.

Skin tone

The very tone of your skin is a risk factor when it comes to skin cancer. While anyone of any color can get skin cancer, those with less color (pigment) are more likely to develop skin cancer. In fact, the highest risk group of skin cancer is thought to be Caucasian men over the age of 50. And it makes sense, because the lighter your skin, the more apt you are to burn or show damage to your skin.5

Moles

It’s not that a mole in itself causes skin cancer. But it has been found that those with more moles have a higher risk. The reason this may be is because of the mole’s construction. Each one has calls that contain genes related to cancer. This is just a numbers game. The more moles equal the better chance of getting skin cancer. Most of the time, these are dormant genes, but sometimes these moles do develop into skin cancerous areas.6

Take care of yourself because sun isn't the only cause of skin cancer

The best way to help mitigate some risk of skin cancer is to take care of yourself. Always stay out of the sun as best you can. If you do have to be in it, cover up and use sunscreen. Stay out of tanning beds, too.

And even with risk factors you can’t help like skin tone or moles, get regular checkups at your local dermatologist’s office. Remember there are many causes of skin cancer, and sun isn't the only one.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The SkinCancer.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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