Ultraviolet radiation and the INTERSUN Programme

Skin cancers


Who is most at risk of getting skin cancer?

Due to their relative lack of skin pigmentation Caucasian populations generally have a much higher risk of getting non-melanoma or melanoma skin cancers than dark-skinned populations. Naturally brown and black people (skin types V, VI – see table) can usually safely tolerate relatively high levels of sun exposure without getting sunburnt or greatly increasing their skin cancer risk. In contrast, people with pale or freckled skin, fair or red hair and blue eyes belong to the highest risk group (skin types I, II); people with dark hair and eyes who do not normally get sunburnt are at medium risk of developing skin cancer (skin types III, IV). Nevertheless excessive exposure to intense sunlight can damage all skin types - the risk of eye damage and heat stroke is the same for everyone!

Some individual risk factors for skin cancer

  • fair skin
  • blue, green or hazel eyes
  • light-coloured hair
  • tendency to burn rather than suntan
  • history of severe sunburns
  • many moles
  • freckles
  • a family history of skin cancer

Skin type classification Do you burn in the sun? Do you tan after having been in the sun?
I Always Seldom
II Usually Sometimes
III Sometimes Usually
IV Seldom Always
V Naturally brown skin
VI Naturally black skin

How can I protect myself against skin cancer?

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