What is Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells that occurs when the skin’s DNA is damaged. The damage caused by UV radiation (from the sun or from tanning beds) causes skin cells to multiply rapidly and produce cancerous tumors that can spread to tissues and organs in the body.

There are several types of skin cancer – melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers. Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer and if left untreated will cause serious illness and death.1

The most common risk factor for skin cancer is exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR), whether from the sun or from tanning beds. Ultraviolet radiation is carcinogenic to humans, meaning that it causes cancer.2


1. Hussein MR. Ultraviolet radiation and skin cancer: molecular mechanisms. J Cutan Pathol. 2005; 32(3):191-205.

2. IARC. A review of human carcinogens. Part D: Radiation. IARC monographs on the evaluation of carcinogenic risks to humans. 2012 Lyon: France. Available here.