Surprising factors that may increase your risk for skin cancer

Yes, UV radiation from the sun causes most skin cancers. There are however a few other factors that might increases your risk for skin cancer. A few of these have been exaggerated in the media as of late, so lets make one thing clear that will make you feel better while reading this article. An absolute risk is the chance of you developing a condition over your lifetime. A relative risk is the chance that a group of people with a certain characteristic (lets say that use a tanning bed every day) develop a condition versus a group of people who have never used one in their life. There is a big difference. Now keeping that in mind, lets find out if these factors raise any concern to you!

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White wine

No one likes when a study comes out resulting in a negative health benefit coming from something they love. However, a 2016 study came out saying drinking alcohol (particularly white wine) is correlated to the increased risk of invasive melanoma in white men and women. It is suggested that white wine has the largest correlation because of its higher levels of acetaldehyde, and its lower levels of antioxidants compared to red wine. Drinking a glass of white wine a day showed an increased risk of 13 percent, while that goes all the way up to a 50 percent increase for the people who drank the most white wine throughout the study. If you do not have any preexisting risks for skin cancer, such as family history of skin cancer, exposure to toxic chemicals, previous skin cancers yourself, or use indoor tanning beds, a 13 percent increase is not something to worry about. Determine how prevalent your preexisting factors are, and have a chat with Dr. Legacy if you have any concerns!

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Blood pressure medication

Millions of people take hydrochlorothiazide to lower their high blood pressure. Are you one of them? It has been found that there is a connection between this medication and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), which is the second most popular type of skin cancer. Hydrochlorothiazide is the generic name for diuretics, which help your body get rid of water and extra salt lowering your blood pressure. The most important factor here is how long you take the diuretics. Researchers at the University of Southern Denmark looked at 80,000 cases of skin cancer and found that there is a direct correlation between the length of time patents took the medication, and their increased risk for developing SCC. This risk is up to seven times grater than if never taking the drug at all. Again, you have to think about your preexisting factors and weigh the differences. By no means should you stop your medication, but if you are concerned talk to your physician. There may be an alternative treatment for you!


Endometriosis is a condition in which tissue that usually lines the uterus becomes trapped, and grows elsewhere in the body instead of being shed during the menstrual cycle. There is a definite correlation between this condition and many cancers, including ovarian cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and a new study suggest skin cancer as well. Scientists conducted a study on 100,000 French women and recognized that there are many genetic factors that are associated with both endometriosis and melanoma. Some of these factors are red hair, freckles, and sensitivity to sun exposure. If you have endometriosis along with a family history of skin cancer you may want to consult Dr. Legacy.

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Being a firefighter

Recent studies have found that firefighters are not only at risk to get cancers such as mesothelioma and lung cancer on the job, but are also at risk of melanoma. This may be linked to chemicals from the combustion of materials they face daily or from flame retardants they use to put out fires. An Australian study found that firefighters had a 45 percent higher rate of developing melanoma over the general population with different careers. Many states have put forth legislation to help out firefighters who do get melanoma and other cancers. Laws are being created so firefighters now don’t have to prove their cancer is job-related to obtain disability benefits.

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Erectile dysfunction drugs

Researchers have found a potential association between sildenafil (generic name for Viagra) and melanoma. Now remember “association” does not mean “cause”. The found relative risk of a male developing melanoma from taking these drugs is 84 percent, while the absolute risk is only .43 percent. That sounds like a big difference. That’s why it is important to be informed on the differences between a relative risk and an absolute risk as talked about above. More research is needed on this one to find a stronger correlation, but we know one thing’s for sure: if you are ever concerned about melanoma it’s always a good idea to talk to Dr. Legacy about it!

Human Papillomavirus

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a widely common virus affecting nearly 80 million people worldwide. There are clear relationships between HPV and some cancers such as cervical, anal, oral and now squamous cell carcinomas as well. Researchers found that 16 of the 150 different HPV strands (when mixed with exposure to UV radiation) may promote skin cancer. Very few studies have been conducted looking into whether or not the HPV vaccine will help decrease this risk. However, one study found remarkable results in the decrease of new SCCs and BCCs in patients a year after receiving the vaccination.

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Autoimmune diseases

The main job of the immune system is to distinguish healthy tissue from cancerous ones. When you have an autoimmune diseases, the immune system may attack healthy tissue instead of fighting the dangerous disease present. People with an autoimmune disease are at higher risk of developing basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas for this reason. Another factor may be the medications prescribed to people with these diseases. Many of these medications suppress the immune system as a whole making it that much harder to fight off dangerous diseases, including skin cancer. If you are taking medication for an autoimmune disease it might be a good idea to talk to Dr. Legacy about extra ways to protect your skin. 


Singer, Jen. “Beyond the Sun”. The Skin Cancer Foundation Journal 2018: 79-83. Print.