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Less Common Risk Factors for Basal and Squamous Cell Cancer


Updated February 02, 2009

Besides the major risk factors such as ultraviolet light, a variety of diseases, skin conditions, chemicals, and medicines can increase your risk of developing nonmelanoma skin cancers such as basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma. Here are some of the less common but documented additional risk factors:

  • certain autoimmune diseases, such as AIDS or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE, or "lupus")
  • xeroderma pigmentosum (a very rare inherited skin condition)
  • basal cell nevus syndrome (also known as Gorlin's syndrome, a rare inherited condition that causes multiple basal cell cancers)
  • certain subtypes of human papilloma viruses
  • weakened immune system due to previous organ transplant, diseases such as lymphoma, or medicines that lower your immunity (for example, corticosteroids)
  • long-term exposure to arsenic, industrial tar, coal, paraffin, and certain types of oil
  • long-term radiation treatment with X-rays (for example, in children undergoing treatment for cancer)
  • psoralen plus ultraviolet light A (PUVA) therapy for treatment of psoriasis (linked to squamous cell carcinoma)
  • scars (from severe burns, areas of skin over severe bone infections, or skin damaged by some inflammatory skin diseases)
  • chronic skin ulcers (associated with squamous cell carcinoma)
  • oral contraceptives (birth control pills)
  • tetracycline, sulfa drugs, or certain other antibiotics
  • naproxen sodium or certain other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • phenothiazines (major tranquilizers and anti-nausea drugs)
  • tricyclic antidepressants
  • thiazide diuretics (medicines used for high blood pressure and some heart conditions)
  • sulfonylureas (a form of oral anti-diabetic medication)
  • tobacco smoking (triples your risk of squamous cell cancer)

Most of the time, skin cancer can be cured if detected early. If you have any of the above risk factors, it is important that you perform regular self-examinations of your skin, see a dermatologist for regular examinations, and protect yourself from the sun.


"What Are The Risk Factors for Squamous and Basal Cell Skin Cancer?" American Cancer Society. 22 October 2008.

"What is Your Risk?" American Academy of Dermatology. 22 October 2008.

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