What you need to know about Melanoma: Risk factors and symptoms

What is Melanoma?

Melanoma is a rapidly growing and highly dangerous form of skin cancer.

What are the risk factors?

These days, it seems like everything is a risk factor. But when we talk about melanoma, if it’s an activity, habit, or history that increases your chance of getting skin cancer, it’s a risk factor. Some risk factors are hereditary or environmental— others you have more control over.

Risk factors for Melanoma include:

  • Exposure to UV (ultraviolet) Light: Sunlight and tanning beds are the two main sources of exposure.
  • Moles: Most moles never cause a problem, but people with moles are more likely to develop melanoma. Some forms of melanoma begin from existing moles.
  • Fair skin, freckles, and light hair: People with fair features are more susceptible to sunburns and are more likely to develop melanoma.
  • Family history of Melanoma: Your risk of melanoma is greater if 1 or more first-degree relatives (parent, brother, sister, or child) has had melanoma. Around 10% of all people with melanoma have a family history of the disease.
  • Age: While melanoma is more likely to occur in older adults, it is one of the most common forms of cancer found in people under 30.

Gender: In the United States, men have a higher rate of melanoma than women overall, although this varies by age. Before age 40, the risk is higher for women; after age 40 the risk is higher in men.

What Can You Do?

  • Limit your exposure to UV rays. If you are going to be in the sun for extended periods of time, wear sunscreen, wear a shirt sunglasses and hat, or seek shade.
  • Always avoid tanning beds.
  • Watch for new, abnormal, or changing moles. Consult a doctor to see if you should have moles removed.

If you think you may be at risk for melanoma, or have an abnormal mole, consult a physician