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Although there are several melanoma risk factors, it’s important to understand that having one or more risk factors does not necessarily mean you will develop cancer, and that no one is entirely risk-free. Similarly, if you do develop melanoma and have an established risk factor, it’s impossible to know with certainty how much that risk factor influenced the cancer’s development.

With that said, some well-known risk factors for melanoma include:

  • Living in an area with intense, year-round sunshine
  • Excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which may come from the sun or artificial sources such as tanning beds
  •  Having a high number of moles, irregular-looking moles or large moles
  • Having a family or personal history of melanoma
  • Having fair skin that freckles and burns easily
  • Having blue eyes and/or naturally red or blond hair

As with many other forms of cancer, the risk for developing melanoma also increases with age, although it can develop in younger individuals. People who have one or more of these melanoma risk factors should take extra care to practice good sun safety by avoiding unprotected exposure when the sun is highest in the sky, wearing protective clothing and using sunscreen while outside.

Whether you feel you are at risk for melanoma or not, it’s important to be familiar with your skin and to do monthly self-exams to look for any changes or abnormalities. It’s also important to have regular skin cancer screenings. Moffitt Cancer Center provides free screenings for the public through the Mole Patrol®, a mobile program that provides screening, education and sunscreen samples throughout the year.

Moffitt’s Cutaneous Oncology Program consists of a multispecialty team of professionals from all areas of expertise. We offer the latest in diagnostic procedures and treatment and are here to help you, with or without a referral. If you would like to learn more about melanoma risk factors and make an appointment with our oncologists who specialize in skin cancer, call 1-888-663-3488, or complete our new patient registration form online.


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