Factors that may increase your risk of melanoma include:
April 15, 2014
- Fair skin. Having less pigment (melanin) in your skin means you have less protection from damaging UV radiation. If you have blond or red hair, light-colored eyes, and freckle or sunburn easily, you're more likely to develop melanoma than is someone with a darker complexion. But melanoma can develop in people with darker complexions, including Hispanics and blacks.
- A history of sunburn. One or more severe, blistering sunburns can increase your risk of melanoma as an adult.
- Excessive ultraviolet (UV) light exposure. Exposure to UV radiation, which comes from the sun and from tanning beds, can increase the risk of skin cancer, including melanoma.
- Living closer to the equator or at a higher elevation. People living closer to the earth's equator, where the sun's rays are more direct, experience higher amounts of UV radiation than do those living in higher latitudes. In addition, if you live at a high elevation, you're exposed to more UV radiation.
- Having many moles or unusual moles. Having more than 50 ordinary moles on your body indicates an increased risk of melanoma. Also, having an unusual type of mole increases the risk of melanoma. Known medically as dysplastic nevi, these tend to be larger than normal moles and have irregular borders and a mixture of colors.
- A family history of melanoma. If a close relative — such as a parent, child or sibling — has had melanoma, you have a greater chance of developing a melanoma, too.
- Weakened immune system. People with weakened immune systems have an increased risk of skin cancer. This includes people who have HIV/AIDS and those who have undergone organ transplants.
- What you need to know about melanoma and other skin cancers. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/skin. Accessed Nov. 6, 2013.
- Niederhuber JE, et al., eds. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2014. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Nov. 6, 2013.
- Habif TP. Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 5th ed. Edinburgh, U.K.; New York, N.Y.: Mosby Elsevier; 2010. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Nov. 6, 2013.
- Tafinlar (prescribing information). Research Triangle Park, N.C.: GlaxoSmithKline; 2013. http://www.tafinlar.com. Accessed Nov. 8, 2013.
- Yervoy (prescribing information). Princeton, N.J.: Bristol-Myers Squibb Company; 2013. http://www.yervoy.com. Accessed Nov. 8, 2013.
- Intraocular (eye) melanoma treatment (PDQ). National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/intraocularmelanoma/patient. Accessed Nov. 6, 2013.
- Smith RA, et al. Cancer screening in the United States, 2013: A review of current American Cancer Society guidelines and current issues in cancer screening, and new guidance on cervical cancer screening and lung cancer screening. CA A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 2013;63:87.
- Skin examinations. SkinCancerNet. http://www.skincarephysicians.com/skincancernet/skin_examinations.html. Accessed Nov. 6, 2013.
- Preventive services for adults. Bloomington, Minn.: Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement. https://www.icsi.org/guidelines__more/catalog_guidelines_and_more/catalog_guidelines/catalog_prevention__screening_guidelines/preventive_services_for_adults. Accessed Nov. 6, 2013.
- Zelboraf (prescribing information). South San Francisco, Calif.: Genentech Inc.; 2013. http://www.zelboraf.com. Accessed Nov. 8, 2013.
- U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for skin cancer: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation statement. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2009;150:188.
- Melanoma. Fort Washington, Pa.: National Comprehensive Cancer Network. http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/f_guidelines.asp. Accessed Nov. 6, 2013.
- Reed KB, et al. Increasing incidence of melanoma among young adults: An epidemiological study in Olmsted County, Minnesota. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2012;87:328.
- Golden AK. Decision Support System. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Aug. 2, 2013.
- Gibson LE (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Dec. 12, 2013.
You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.