What are the Causes of Skin Cancer?

Jacob Queen
Jacob Queen
A skin mole.
A skin mole.

The causes of skin cancer are rather diverse, but most cases can be traced back to sun exposure. When people spend too much time exposing their skin directly to sunlight, the ultraviolet radiation has the potential to greatly damage their skin cells. Over time, this kind of damage might cause malfunctions in the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) which could eventually lead to cancer. Synthetic tanning devices like tanning beds are also considered very dangerous and may be even more harmful than actual sunlight. Additionally, some people get skin cancer because of exposure to toxins, reactions to chemicals, or intolerance to certain medication.

A flat skin mole.
A flat skin mole.

Cancers generally involve a cellular malfunction where the cells' ability to regulate regeneration gets out of whack. Normally, cells function so that new cells only form to replace dying cells. In cancers, the cells start reproducing without this kind of control, and cancerous masses develop. In the case of skin cancer, these masses generally take the form of moles or other kinds of skin abnormalities.

Skin cancer has been directly linked to UV rays.
Skin cancer has been directly linked to UV rays.

The sun has the potential to harm a person’s skin cells and, over time, this damage to cells is one of the primary causes of skin cancer. When people lay out in the sun to get a tan, the result is actually partially due to cellular damage. If the skin burns during this process, the cellular damage is generally more severe. Sometimes people do this for cosmetic reasons over years of their lives, but others receive exposure while working outdoors or for other unintentional reasons. Experts recommend using sun block and clothing to protect exposed skin as a way to avoid this danger.

Although skin cancer can affect anyone, people with a fair complexion and light-colored eyes are the most susceptible.
Although skin cancer can affect anyone, people with a fair complexion and light-colored eyes are the most susceptible.

When the causes of skin cancer are related to ultraviolet light, the exposure could happen at any time during the person’s life. Many people growing up have experiences where they accidentally got a nasty sunburn, and experts think that these burns during childhood might sometimes be causes of skin cancer much later in the person’s life. This might be especially true in cases where severe burns happened repeatedly during the person’s early years.

Fair-skinned people should wear protective clothing when in the sun.
Fair-skinned people should wear protective clothing when in the sun.

In the same way that the sun can damage DNA, other causes of skin cancer may be related to chemical contamination or various forms of poisoning in the skin that harm DNA. This might happen when people work in certain kinds of industrial environments without taking proper care of their skin, and any kind of radiation poisoning can also be one of the causes of skin cancer, including too much time spent around X-ray machines.

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    • A skin mole.
      A skin mole.
    • A flat skin mole.
      A flat skin mole.
    • Skin cancer has been directly linked to UV rays.
      Skin cancer has been directly linked to UV rays.
    • Although skin cancer can affect anyone, people with a fair complexion and light-colored eyes are the most susceptible.
      Although skin cancer can affect anyone, people with a fair complexion and light-colored eyes are the most susceptible.
    • Fair-skinned people should wear protective clothing when in the sun.
      Fair-skinned people should wear protective clothing when in the sun.
    • The UV rays from tanning beds put frequent users at risk for developing skin cancer.
      The UV rays from tanning beds put frequent users at risk for developing skin cancer.
    • Many skin cancers develop when skin cells are irrevocably harmed by exposure to the sun's rays.
      Many skin cancers develop when skin cells are irrevocably harmed by exposure to the sun's rays.