Risk factorsBy Mayo Clinic staff
Factors that may increase your risk of squamous cell carcinoma include:
- Fair skin. Anyone, regardless of skin color, can get squamous cell carcinoma. However, having less pigment (melanin) in your skin provides less protection from damaging UV radiation. If you have blond or red hair and light-colored eyes and you freckle or sunburn easily, you're much more likely to develop skin cancer than is a person with darker skin.
- Excessive sun exposure. Being exposed to UV light from the sun increases your risk of squamous cell carcinoma. Spending lots of time in the sun — particularly if you don't cover your skin with clothing or sunblock — increases your risk of squamous cell carcinoma even more.
- Use of tanning beds. People who use indoor tanning beds have an increased risk of squamous cell carcinoma.
- A history of sunburns. Having had one or more blistering sunburns as a child or teenager increases your risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma as an adult. Sunburns in adulthood also are a risk factor.
- A personal history of precancerous skin lesions. Having a precancerous skin lesion, such as actinic keratosis or Bowen's disease, increases your risk of squamous cell carcinoma.
- A personal history of skin cancer. If you've had squamous cell carcinoma once, you're much more likely to develop it again.
- Weakened immune system. People with weakened immune systems have an increased risk of skin cancer. This includes people who have leukemia or lymphoma and those who take medications that suppress the immune system, such as those who have undergone organ transplants.
- Rare genetic disorder. People with xeroderma pigmentosum, which causes an extreme sensitivity to sunlight, have a greatly increased risk of developing skin cancer.
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- Goldsmith LA, et al., eds. Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine. 8th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=740. Accessed Feb. 12, 2013.
- Skin cancer treatment (PDQ). National Cancer Institute. http://cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/skin/Patient. Accessed Feb. 12, 2013.
- Skin cancer prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/prevention.htm. Accessed Feb. 19, 2013.
- Gibson LE (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Feb. 21, 2013.