Melanoma Risk Factors

Family History

Those with a family history, i.e. first degree relative, have 2-3 times the risk of developing a melanoma and with more than one first degree relative with melanoma, the incidence is even higher.

Moles and Having an Atypical (Dysplastic) Nevi

The number and size of moles increases the risk of developing melanoma. Also, atypical or dysplastic moles (nevi) are a common genetic disorder. People with these nevus’s usually have several large moles with more than one color and they typically develop in childhood and increase in size and number through adolescence. If you have these moles and have a genetic predisposition to melanoma, you are at an especially high risk for developing melanoma and should be followed regularly by a dermatologist. Also, encourage your family members to get their skin checked.

Being Born with a Mole(s)

Some infants are born with a mole called a nevomelanocytic congenital nevus or having neurocutaneous melanosis puts a person at increased risk for developing melanoma.  Larger moles increase the risk of developing melanoma.

Parents should consult with their Pediatrician and/or Pediatric Dermatologist to determine the appropriate medical plan when dealing with these moles.

Personal History

Developing one melanoma increases the risk of developing another melanoma.

Skin Type

Caucasians are 20% more likely than African Americans to develop melanoma because they do not produce as much pigment to protect them from UV exposure. Fair-skinned, red-haired, blue/green-eyed people have a higher incidence of melanoma.

Being a White Male Over Age 50

People of any race and age can get melanoma, white men are at particularly higher risk. Melanomas on white men are most often found on the back.  Also pay close attention to moles on the scalp, since melanomas on the scalp have a higher mortality rate than elsewhere, because they are usually diagnosed at a more advanced stage.

Ultraviolet (UV) Light Exposure

Frequent and intense exposure either from sun or artificial indoor tanning beds is a major risk factor for developing melanoma. The more blistering sunburns, particularly before 18 years of age, increases the risk of developing melanoma.