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Causes of non-melanoma skin cancer

Main causes of non-melanoma skin cancer

Ultraviolet (UV) light is the most common cause of non-melanoma skin cancer. It comes from the sun and is used in sunbeds.

Non-melanoma skin cancer is more common in older people, but younger people can also get it.

You're also more likely to get non-melanoma skin cancer if you have:

  • pale skin that burns easily in the sun
  • red or fair hair
  • blue or green eyes
  • a large number of freckles or moles
  • had a lot of sun exposure and you've had sunburn a lot in the past
  • used sunbeds a lot
  • a history of skin cancer in your family or you've had skin cancer before

If you have brown or black skin, you have a lower chance of getting non-melanoma skin cancer, but you can still get it.

How to lower your chance of getting skin cancer

Staying safe in the sun is the best way to lower your chance of getting skin cancer.

There are some things you can do to help prevent getting skin cancer when you're outdoors.


  • stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day (11am to 3pm in the UK)

  • keep your arms and legs covered, and wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses that provide protection against ultraviolet (UV) rays

  • use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 and at least 4-star UVA protection – make sure you reapply it regularly

  • make sure babies and children are protected from the sun – their skin is much more sensitive than adult skin


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Page last reviewed: 4 May 2023
Next review due: 4 May 2026