Risk Factors

Risk Factors

Anyone can get Melanoma

IF you have one, all, or none of the risk factors given below, you can still get melanoma. A risk factor is anything that increases a person’s chance of developing a disease. Still, many get the disease with no known risk factors.

Sunlight – UVA and UVB Exposure

UV radiation from the sun can cause skin damage that can lead to melanoma. Every time you burn your skin (as a child, teenager, or adult – anytime), you increase your risk of developing skin cancer. Tanning beds and lamps also produce UV radiation so they should be avoided. DNA is a genetic material in each of our cells, including skin cells, and it can be damaged by UV radiation. Inside DNA are segments called genes and certain genes control how and when cells grow and divide. If that gene is damaged, the affected cells may form a cancer. DNA is passed on from one generation to the next.

Genetics/Family History of Melanoma or Other Skin Cancers

Since DNA is passed on from one generation to the next, a family with a history of melanoma should see a doctor regularly. About 10 percent of all patients with melanoma have a family member with this disease.

Personal History of Melanoma

A person who has had melanoma has a high risk of getting it again. Weakened Immune System and Immune Suppressant Drugs People with weakened immune systems are at a greater risk of many diseases, including skin cancer. The body’s immune system detects and destroys cancer cells. Weakened immune systems include people with chronic leukemia or HIV/AIDS, and those taking drugs to prevent rejection of transplanted organs.

Fair Skin

Having less pigment (melanin) in your skin means you have less protection from damaging UV radiation. People with fair skin that burns or freckles easily (persons often with blond or red hair and blue eyes) are more likely to develop melanoma than is someone with a darker complexion. Darker skin makes it more difficult to see melanoma so it is often diagnosed at a later stage, when the lesions are deeper and more advanced. It’s important that people of all ethnic backgrounds be aware of melanoma and take precautions against UV radiation.


Having dysplastic moles doubles your risk of melanoma. Ordinary moles also increase your risk of developing melanoma.