Main causes of melanoma skin cancer

Ultraviolet (UV) light is the most common cause of melanoma. It comes from the sun and is used in sunbeds.

Melanoma is more common in older people, but younger people can also get it.

You're also more likely to get melanoma if you have:

If you have black or brown skin, you have a lower chance of getting melanoma, but you can still get it.

People with black or brown skin most often get melanoma on the soles of the feet, palms of the hands, or under a nail.

How to lower your chance of getting melanoma

Staying safe in the sun is the best way to lower your chance of getting skin cancer (both melanoma and non-melanoma).


  • stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day (11am to 3pm in the UK)

  • keep your arms and legs covered and wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses that provide protection against ultraviolet (UV) rays

  • use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 and at least 4-star UVA protection – make sure you reapply it regularly

  • make sure babies and children are protected from the sun – their skin is much more sensitive than adult skin


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Page last reviewed: 7 February 2020
Next review due: 7 February 2023