As a frighteningly aggressive and common condition, melanoma receive a great deal of attention across the United States. For this reason, most people are familiar with the basic risk factors for this form of cancer, such as frequent UV exposure, fair skin, freckles and light-colored hair and eyes. However, there are a number of other risk factors that the average person likely does not know about; face it, few people have likely heard of dysplastic nevus syndrome. But more information can only lead to better protection and prevention. Read on to learn about some of the lesser-known risk factors for skin cancer.
Moles are defined as benign pigmented tumors that usually appear in childhood. While most moles will not cause problems, having a large number of them can significantly increase your risk of developing melanoma. This is even more likely if you have atypical nevi, or unusual moles, which are usually larger and have an unusual color. Some people may have a large number of these, which is part of an inherited condition called dysplastic nevus syndrome. People with this disorder usually have significantly higher chance of developing skin cancer, and will need regular skin examinations at a dermatologist clinic to help protect their health. If you have this disorder, ask a dermatologist or even a friend to help you photograph your moles to help you better track any changes in your skin.
Other people may also have a condition called congenital melanocytic nevi, or moles present at birth. This also has an increased risk of melanoma, so patients should learn how to perform self-exams, regularly visit a dermatologist, and possibly even have their moles removed.
A History of Skin Cancers, Especially Melanoma
If you have developed skin cancer in the past, you will have an increased risk of experiencing it again. Likewise, if your family has a history of melanoma, you will be more likely to develop the condition. For this reason, if you have any tendency towards the disorder, make sure to prioritize sun protection, perform monthly skin exams and visit dermatology specialists regularly.
A Weakened Immune System
Because the immune system helps fight cancer throughout the body, having a weakened immune system can make you more likely to develop skin cancers, including melanoma. If you have HIV, have received an organ transplant or have another condition that reduces your body’s ability to protect itself, talk to your doctor about how to best protect yourself.
Age and Gender
According to research, melanoma is more likely to occur in older patients, but it is also one of the most common cancers in young people, a fact that may be due to increased sun exposure, especially if patients have inherited traits like dysplastic nevus syndrome. Gender also seems to have an effect: melanoma is more common in women before the age of 45, but after 45, it is more common in men. For these reasons, it is important that everyone pay attention to their skin so that any changes can be detected early.
Finally, melanoma risk can be increased if a person has xeroderma pigmentosum (XP), a condition that affects skin cells’ ability to repair genetic damage. This disorder is rare and inherited, and sufferers have a greater chance of developing skin cancers when they are young. If this condition runs in your family, talk to your doctor immediately.