Education, prevention and support for the most serious form of skin cancer.

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Who is at Risk for Melanoma?

People of any age and any race can get melanoma, but some people are at higher risk. The more risk factors you have, the more likely you will get a melanoma. Risk factors for melanoma are:

  1. Being a white male over the age of fifty
    Although people of any race and age can get melanoma, people in this demographic are at particularly high risk for getting and dying of melanoma.  In this group, melanomas are most common on the back.  However, pay particular attention to moles on the scalp, since melanomas on the scalp have a higher mortality rate than elsewhere, because they are usually diagnosed when they are thicker and deeper.
  2. Having other family members who have had a melanoma
    Melanomas often run in families.  The more family members you have with melanoma, the higher your risk.  Some of the genes that occur in people with familial melanoma have been identified and can be tested for, but many patients who have family members with melanoma have no gene problem that can be tested for.
  3. Having atypical (dysplastic) nevi
    Atypical or dysplastic moles/nevi are a common genetic condition. People with atypical nevi usually have several or many large moles with more than one color.  The moles may start in childhood and increase in size and number through adolescence and early adulthood.  If you have atypical moles and have family members with melanoma you are at especially high risk for melanoma and should be followed regularly by a health care professional such as a dermatologist who has special expertise in following people with atypical moles.  Also, get your family members checked.
  4. Being born with a mole or moles
    Being born with a mole called a nevomelanocytic congenital nevus or having neurocutaneous melanosis puts a person at increased risk for developing melanoma.  Bigger moles pose a greater risk than smaller ones.  Deciding if and when these moles should be biopsied and/or removed involves complex medical decisions.  Parents should discuss these concerns with their Pediatrician and consider seeing a Pediatric Dermatologist or other Dermatologist who has special expertise in evaluating children with these lesions.
  5. Ultraviolet light exposure
    Sunlight is important to all living beings.  Sun helps plants to grow and helps our bones to grow stronger. However, sunlight is also carcinogenic to human skin.  There are three types of ultraviolet (UV) light: UVA, UVB, and UVC.  UVC rays, which are the most harmful, are blocked by our ozone layer.  Exposure to both UVB rays, which cause sunburns, and UVA rays, which cause tanning, increases your chance of getting skin cancer.  The more you tan and burn, the greater your chances of getting skin cancer.
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