As skin cancer is now one of the most common type of cancer globally, more and more people are becoming aware of the risk. And that’s a good thing of course. But it also raises the question ‘am I at risk?’. Which can be answered with a ‘yes’ in most cases. So to make things a bit more clear: who gets skin cancer?
That answer is almost just as simple, as anyone can get skin cancer. Skin cancer can affect both men and women. Even teenagers and, rarely, younger children. But of course there are groups of people that have a higher risk of developing skin cancer during their lifetime. Let’s look more in detail.
Just people with light skin?
No, as stated above, anyone can get skin cancer. Although people with (very) light skin color have the highest risk. This is because of the way the skin can protect itself against UV rays from the sun. People with dark(er) skin color see less response to UV exposure – and therefore have lower risk of developing skin cancer. But they are never excluded.
The Fitzgerald scale
Skin colors around the world can be (globally) sorted into 6 different categories, ranging from pale white to darkest brown.
This is called the Fitzgerald scale. These skin types respond differently to UV exposure, and therefore have a different risk:
- Type I (scores 0–6) always burns, never tans (pale white; blond or red hair; blue eyes; freckles).
- Type II (scores 7–13) usually burns, tans minimally (white; fair; blond or red hair; blue, green, or hazel eyes)
- Type III (scores 14–20) sometimes mild burn, tans uniformly (cream white; fair with any hair or eye color)
- Type IV (scores 21–27) burns minimally, always tans well (moderate brown)
- Type V (scores 28–34) very rarely burns, tans very easily (dark brown)
- Type VI (scores 35–36) Never burns, never tans (deeply pigmented dark brown to darkest brown)
How to avoid skin cancer
As anyone can get skin cancer it’s important to know about avoiding skin cancer in the first place. There are some basic precautions you should know about, to decrease your chances of ever having to deal with this disease.
· Use sunscreen. Not only when the sun is out, but also as part of your skin care routine.
· Avoid the sun during peak hours (12-4), seek some shade if possible.
· Do not use tanning beds. Multiple countries have banned these altogether, which should say it all.
· Perform regular self-checks to make sure no changes on your skin appeared. You can join the SkinVision program and download the app to do this from the comfort of your own home.
· If you use any kind of medication, ask your doctor if they have an influence on sensitivity for UV light.