Everyone is at some risk for developing skin cancer, including melanoma, but there are several different risk factors for skin cancer that make some people more susceptible to the disease than others. It is important to know the risk factors for skin cancer and the ways you can minimize the chance of developing this common form of cancer.
- Sun exposure – Dangerous UVA and UVB rays are both able to induce skin cancer. During childhood, even a single bad sunburn can increase the risk of getting the disease. Cumulative exposure may also contribute to the likelihood of developing skin cancer. Those who live in areas with more sunlight, such as Hawaii or Florida, tend to develop skin cancer more often. Tanning beds are not a safe alternative to natural sun exposure because they also increase your exposure to UV rays.
- Skin type – Those with fairer skin, especially people who also have light hair and eyes, are at an increased risk of developing skin cancer.
- Weakened immune system – If your immune system is compromised due to an organ transplant, diseases such as lymphoma or HIV/AIDS, or chemotherapy, you could be at a higher risk for skin cancer.
- Personal history – If you have had melanoma in the past, it is more likely that the disease could re-occur. If you have basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma now or in the past, you are also more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma.
- Family history – Heredity can also influence the likeliness of getting melanoma. Studies have shown that one in ten patients diagnosed with melanoma have a relative who has also been diagnosed with the disease.
- Moles – When it comes to moles, there are two kinds: normal moles and atypical moles. Normal moles are usually not a cause of concern, but atypical moles can be a precursor of skin cancer.
There are ways to diminish your chance of being diagnosed with skin cancer, including limiting sun exposure, wearing sunscreen, and avoiding the use of tanning beds. If you have noticed any of the symptoms of skin cancer such as a mole that changes size, color, or shape, as well as any other suspicious lesions, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible. Early detection is key for successful treatment.