Basal Cell Carcinoma Risk Factors

There are several known risk factors for basal cell carcinoma. Although anyone can develop this type of skin cancer, individuals who have a history of chronic sun exposure have an especially high risk. Sunbathing, working in an outdoor industry such as agriculture or construction and spending long periods of time outdoors for sports or hobbies can all increase a person’s risk for basal cell carcinoma.

Exposure to artificial sunlight (via UV tanning booths or other sources) is another known risk factor. Nearly 245,000 cases of basal cell carcinoma are attributed to tanning booths every year. Similarly, exposure to arsenic or ionizing radiation (e.g., having undergone radiation therapy for a previous cancer) can increase a person’s likelihood of developing the condition.

Additionally, people with the following inherited traits may have an increased likelihood of developing basal cell carcinoma:

  • Fair skin and a tendency to easily get sunburned
  • Freckles 
  • Red or blond hair
  • Blue, gray or green eyes

Some people are also born with a genetic predisposition to basal cell carcinoma. People with a family history of skin cancer and people who are born with a rare genetic disease, such as Gorlin-Goltz syndrome or xeroderma pigmetosum, may also be more likely to develop the cancer in their lifetimes.

Researchers have also found that men are more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma than women and that few people are diagnosed with the condition before the age of 50. The cancer is very rarely seen in children.

While these risk factors have all been associated with basal cell skin cancer, they shouldn’t be seen as absolute predictors of a person’s individual risk. It’s impossible to say with certainty who will develop basal cell carcinoma and why; in fact, some people develop the cancer without ever having met a single risk factor.

At Moffitt Cancer Center, we can provide you with additional information about basal cell carcinoma risk factors. No referral is necessary; make an appointment by calling 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form.