The main cause of skin cancer is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
The sun produces UV radiation but it can also come from other sources, such as solarium tanning machines.
Most parts of Australia have high levels of UV radiation all year round. This radiation cannot be seen or felt but can cause:
Skin cancer is related to two factors: a person’s total lifetime exposure to UV radiation and the number of sunburns they have had.
Research suggests that while skin cells are often damaged in childhood, it may be sun exposure in adulthood that triggers these damaged cells to turn cancerous.
Anyone can develop skin cancer, regardless of their skin colour or general health. However, some people have a higher risk of skin cancer than others.
You may be at higher risk if you have:
People with olive or dark skin have more natural protection against skin cancer because their skin produces more melanin than fair-skinned people. However, because UV radiation is so strong in Australia, dark and olive-skinned people still need to protect their skin. For information about protecting your skin, see page 17.
Talk to your doctor about your risks for skin cancer. Your GP or dermatologist can give you advice about checking your skin.
Last Reviewed: 01 March 2011