Risk factors are those things that may increase the chances of developing a condition. Knowing your risk factors for melanoma is the first step in prevention and early detection. Dr. Patel, can you tell us more about the risk factors for melanoma?
Of course, Dr. Mayzik. The primary cause of most skin cancers, including melanoma, is overexposure to ultraviolet, or UV, radiation from the sun. Blistering sunburns in childhood and adolescence especially increase the risk for melanoma, but sunburns later in life and cumulative exposure can also play roles in the development of skin cancer.
Indoor tanning beds are another dangerous source of UV radiation. Research has shown that the use of tanning beds significantly increases the risk for melanoma, even after just one use.
Exposure to ultraviolet radiation is a risk factor that can be controlled. There are a number of ways you can limit your exposure to UV rays, including:
- Reducing time spent in the sun
- Wearing protective clothing
- Avoiding sun exposure at midday, when UV light is most intense
- Applying sunscreens regularly and frequently, and
- Not using sun lamps and tanning beds
Other risk factors for melanoma are not controllable. These include:
- Having light-colored skin, hair, and eyes
- Having several large or many small moles
- Having a family history of unusual moles
- Having a family or personal history of melanoma
- Having a weakened immune system, and
- Having certain gene changes, or mutations, that are linked to melanoma
Even though melanoma disproportionately affects white people, anyone of any race or ethnicity can develop melanoma.