Melanoma Basics

What is Melanoma?

Melanoma skin schemeMelanoma is a cancer of the skin. It develops in cells that give the skin its color (melanocytes). Melanoma can develop anywhere on your body, but it is most common where skin is exposed to the sun. In 2017, approximately 87,000 people were diagnosed with melanoma in the US. This makes melanoma the 5th most common cancer diagnosis among US adults.

Risk Factors for Developing Melanoma

It is impossible to predict whether or not you will develop melanoma, or if you have already had melanoma, whether or not you will develop another melanoma. There are many risk factors that play a role in developing melanoma. Although it is not known exactly how these factors interact with each other, several key risk factors have been identified:

Sunburned Skin

  • Previous melanoma diagnosis
  • Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun or indoor tanning
  • Fair/light skin, light hair
  • Personal history of sunburns
  • Family history of melanoma
  • Living closer to the equator
  • Having many freckles and moles

These risk factors remain important after you have had a melanoma diagnosis. The more of these risk criteria you meet, the more likely you are to be vulnerable to a second diagnosis of melanoma.

 

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