If you’re reading this, chances are you or someone you know has been affected by melanoma. And while it is the most severe type of skin cancer, melanoma is also one of the most preventable. In fact, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “when caught early, the cure rate for melanoma is about 99 percent .” So, what exactly is melanoma? Cancer begins in the cells that give our skin its color (melanocytes). While it can occur anywhere on the body, it’s most commonly found on the face, chest, back, or legs. And while it can occur in people of all skin types, those with lighter skin are at a higher risk. This article covers some of the factors that increase your risk for melanoma. If you have any symptoms associated with this problem, you may want to talk to a Chevy Chase melanoma specialist.
1. Exposure to UV Rays
One of the most significant risk factors for melanoma is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays. This includes both natural sunlight and artificial sources like tanning beds and sunlamps. UV rays damage the DNA in our cells, leading to cancer. Studies have shown that people who have had five or more sunburns are at an increased risk for melanoma. That’s why it’s so important to protect yourself from the sun by wearing sunscreen, avoiding peak UV hours (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.), and wearing protective clothing like hats and long-sleeved shirts.
2. Family History
If you have a family member who has had melanoma, you’re at an increased risk for the disease. This is because specific genes can be passed down from generation to generation, and these genes may make you more susceptible to developing melanoma. If you have a family history of melanoma, it’s essential to talk to your doctor about your risks and what you can do to reduce them.
Most people have moles, and while they’re usually harmless, some moles can increase your risk for melanoma. Moles large (larger than a pencil eraser), have an irregular shape, or are multiple colors are more likely to be cancerous. If you have any moles that fit this description, you should have them checked by a doctor.
4. Sunbed Usage
Another artificial source of UV rays is the sunbed. And like tanning beds, sunbeds can increase your risk for melanoma. In fact, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, “the use of sunbeds before the age of 35 increases the risk of melanoma by 59 percent.” So, if you’re going to use a sunbed, it’s important to be aware of the risks.
5. Certain Medical Conditions
Certain medical conditions can increase your risk for melanoma. These include having a suppressed immune system, a history of non-melanoma skin cancer, and certain genetic syndromes like xeroderma pigmentosum. If you have any of these conditions, it’s important to talk to your doctor about your risks and what you can do to reduce them.
In summary, melanoma is a serious type of skin cancer that can be prevented. You are more likely to develop melanoma if you have exposure to UV rays, a family history of melanoma, moles, or certain medical conditions. If you have any of these risk factors, you should talk to your doctor about your risks and what you can do to reduce them.