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Melanoma risk factors

Certain factors may increase your risk of developing melanoma. By reducing those factors under your control, you may be able to decrease your risk of developing melanoma. For those that can’t be controlled, regular skin examination can increase the chance of catching a developing melanoma early, when it is more curable.

cancer risks

Melanoma risk factors


  • Weakened immune system: Conditions that weaken the immune system, such as immune suppression therapy associated with organ transplantation, may increase the risk of melanoma.


  • Fair skin: Caucasians have a 10 times greater risk of developing melanoma than non-whites. The risk is also higher in individuals with blonde or red hair, blue or green eyes, or skin that burns or freckles easily.
  • Moles: While most moles are harmless and will never develop into cancer, having a large number of moles may increase the risk for developing melanoma. In addition, the presence of dysplastic nevi (moles that look a little like moles and a little like melanoma) can increase lifetime risk by 10%. Although most dysplastic nevi will not develop into melanomas, a small percentage can, and individuals with these types of moles should see a dermatologist regularly for a thorough skin exam.


  • Family or personal history: People with one or more first-degree relatives (parent or sibling) with melanoma are at increased risk. In addition, individuals who have previously been diagnosed with melanoma are at increased risk for developing the disease again.
  • Inherited conditions: People with xeroderma pigmentosum (XP), an inherited condition that affects the skin’s ability to repair UV damage, are at increased risk for developing melanoma cancer, and may develop the disease at a younger age.


  • Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light: Exposure to natural sources of UV light (sunlight) as well as unnatural sources, like tanning booths, can increase the risk of melanoma. A history of sunburns, particularly during childhood, or excessive exposure to sunlight, may increase an individual’s likelihood of developing melanoma.

Understanding risk factors

Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer. Not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer. If you think you may be at risk, you should discuss it with your doctor.

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