UV, the sun and skin cancer

  • Overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or sunbeds is the main cause of skin cancer.
  • There are two main types of skin cancer: non-melanoma skin cancer, which is very common, and malignant melanoma which is less common but more serious. Most of the information on this website is about melanoma.
  • Over 8 out of 10 melanomas in the UK (around 11,100 cases every year) are linked to too much exposure to UV rays from sunlight or sunbeds.

Who is most at risk of skin cancer?

Anyone can develop skin cancer, but some people are more likely to get the disease than others. These people tend to have one or more of the following:

  • Fair skin that burns easily in strong sun
  • Lots of moles or freckles
  • Red or fair hair
  • Light-coloured eyes
  • A personal or family history of skin cancer
  • A history of sunburn.

What if I don’t have fair skin?

If you have naturally brown or black skin you are much less likely to develop skin cancer. This is because people with naturally brown or black skin have more melanin pigment in their skin cells – which helps protect the skin from damaging UV rays.

However, skin cancer can still affect people with brown or black skin. It is most common on parts of the body that aren’t often exposed to the sun such as the soles of the feet.