What causes melanoma?

Updated: Mar 08, 2019
  • Author: Jonathan B Heistein, MD; Chief Editor: Gregory Gary Caputy, MD, PhD, FICS  more...
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See the list below:

  • Family history - Positive family history in 5-10% of patients; with at least one affected relative, 2.2-fold higher risk

  • Personal characteristics - Blue eyes, fair and/or red hair, pale complexion; skin reaction to sunlight (easily sunburned); freckling; benign and/or dysplastic melanocytic nevi (number has better correlation than size); immunosuppressive states (transplantation patients, hematologic malignancies)

  • Sun exposure over lifetime - High UVB and UVA radiation exposure (Recent evidence has shown that the risk of melanoma is higher in people who use sunscreen. Because sunscreen mostly blocks UVB, people using sunscreen may be exposed to UVA more than the general public, provided those people are exposed to the sun more than the general public. [4] ); low latitude; number of blistering sunburns; use of tanning beds [5]

  • Atypical mole syndrome (formerly termed B-K mole syndrome, dysplastic nevus syndrome, familial atypical multiple mole melanoma) - Over 10 years, 10.7% risk of melanoma (vs 0.62% of controls); higher risk of melanoma depending on number of family members affected (nearly 100% risk if 2 or more relatives have dysplastic nevi and melanoma)

  • Socioeconomic status - Lower socioeconomic status may be linked to more advanced disease at the time of detection. One survey of newly-diagnosed patients found that low SES-individuals have decreased melanoma risk perception and knowledge of the disease. [6]

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