Melanoma Risk Factors and Screening
This patient fact sheet describes risk factors and preventative measures in skin cancer, malignant melanoma.
Men and women of all ages and races can develop melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. UV radiation is thought to be the biggest risk factor for most melanomas. The main source of UV light is the sun, although tanning lamps also emit high levels of UV light.
Aside from UV radiation, there are several other factors that increase the chances that a person will develop melanoma. It is important to be aware of these risk factors, as melanoma is most treatable when detected in its early stages.
Risk factors for melanoma include:
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation Exposure to UV radiation from the sun and from tanning beds increases the risk of melanoma.
Sunburns Blistering caused by overexposure to the sun, especially at a young age, can double a person's chances of developing melanoma. Always apply sunscreen generously and use caution in the sun.
Fair skin and freckles Melanoma occurs more frequently in people with fair skin. Freckles also mark a mild increase in risk.
Light hair and eye color The risk of melanoma is higher for people with blue eyes and those who have blond or red hair.
A large number of ordinary moles People who have more than 50 moles are at an increased risk of developing melanoma.
Abnormal moles Moles that are larger than normal, have several shades of pigment, or have fuzzy or indistinct edges are more likely to become cancerous than ordinary moles.
Family history Melanoma can sometimes run in families; having two or more close family members who have melanoma is a strong risk factor.
Non-melanoma skin cancer People who have other kinds of skin cancer are at a higher risk for developing melanoma.