Anything that increases your chance of getting melanoma is considered a risk factor. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, with sunlight being the primary source, and a history of peeling sunburns are primary risk factors for melanoma. It is important to note that artificial sunlight from tanning beds produces the same risk as natural sunlight. In addition, having many moles (nevi) also is believed to increase an individual’s risk of developing melanoma.
These moles, which are present at birth, produce an estimated lifetime risk for melanoma of up to ten percent, depending on size. Individuals with very large congenital nevi are at even greater risk. These moles are sometimes surgically removed to eliminate the chance of becoming cancerous. Regular skin exams by a dermatologist coupled with self-exams to watch for changes in mole size, shape and/or color are recommended.
These moles are usually large and have an abnormal shape or color. They can increase a person’s lifetime risk for melanoma to 50 percent or greater. For this reason, individuals with dysplastic nevi should receive very thorough, regular skin exams by a dermatologist in addition to regular skin self-exams.
Other factors to evaluate an individual’s risk for melanoma include:
Not everyone with risk factors gets melanoma. It is a good idea to discuss your individual situation with your physician.