White Cats: 1 in 300 chance of skin cancer through sunlight

Feline skin cancer

White cats are far more likely to get skin cancer, in a sun-exposed site of their body, than other cats. In fact, over 13 times as likely.  By skin cancer I am referring to squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), which is cancer of a certain type of cell (epithelial cell) in the skin.

In a sunny environment such as California, the overall chances of any cat getting skin cancer is comparatively low at 0.027% percent or 1 in about 40002.

The ultra-violet element of sunlight is the predominant cause of squamous cell carcinoma in cats and people.

There is no difference between females and males, sterilised or un-sterilised cats.

Almost 60% of SCCs occur on the nose and ears, for obvious reasons. They are the most exposed areas with less hair covering. Also (my comment) they are round anatomical structures so receive ultraviolet light at a 90º angle for longer periods. A 90º angle is the most effective for receipt of the sun’s rays.

1 in 300 seems high. It is about the same as the risk of injury or death under anesthetic during veterinary surgery, on my estimation.

Out of interest, the incidence of squamous cell carcinoma in people has risen dramatically in America over the past 40 years – by up to 200%. The incidence of SCC among white Americans is about 1 person in 650 (0.15%) as a maximum1. Min = 1 in 1000. It is less than for while cats, it seems.

However, the cat has to be in a sunny environment. That means a place like California and other sunny American states, or the Southern European countries, and the cat has to be an outside cat.

India is a very hot country and cats are nearly always outside cats. I would have thought that Indians who care for a white cat should take heed of the higher potential for skin cancer in their cat.

Common sense dictates that if a person has a white cat and lives in a sunny part of the world, (s)he should keep their cat inside in hot weather or in the shade. As it happens, cats do find shade in hot weather but this should not be left to chance.

In the UK, there is little to worry about! Although, I am sure there are cases of skin cancer in white cats.

At the opposite end of the temperature scale, frostbite also attacks that most vulnerable part of the feline anatomy, the ear (and also other extremities)


  1. clevelandclinicmeded.com
  2. http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org

1 thought on “White Cats: 1 in 300 chance of skin cancer through sunlight”

  1. I, personally, have never known any cat with cancer from sun exposure but I’m sure it must happen here. I don’t think people think much about it when they’re slapping that sunscreen on themselves or going inside to escape the sun that their cats are at risk too.


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