CAUSES AND RISK FACTORS
Everyone is at risk for melanoma, but in certain individuals the risk may be greater.  Melanoma in Houston is a very real possibility because of our intense sun exposure.

 

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Sun exposure:

Ultraviolet radiation is damaging to the skin and can induce all types of skin cancer, including melanoma.  UVA and UVB both can cause changes in the DNA of the skin, resulting in the abnormal cells that make melanoma.  Blistering sunburns in early childhood definitely can increase the risk of melanoma, but even sunburns later in life as well as cumulative exposure may also contribute to the increased risk.  People who live in areas that have more sunlight, such as Texas, Florida, Hawaii, and Australia, are at increased risk of developing skin cancers.  Tanning beds in particular are particularly implicated in the development of melanoma, and every dermatologist would caution you to avoid using a tanning bed at all costs.  Even if you were a product of a decade when "a sunburn early in summer was good for you" or if you used baby oil and foil in your childhood to tan, it is never to late to start with sun protective measures

 

Atypical Moles:

Moles are called "nevi" by dermatologists.  There are two types of moles - normal moles that appear during the first few decades of life and atypical moles, or dysplastic nevi.  Dysplastic nevi can be precursors to melanoma, and having them puts you at increased risk of melanoma.  Regardless, having an increased number of moles puts you at a greater risk for melanoma.

 

Skin Type:

People with fairer skin, who often also have lighter hair color and eye color, are at increased risk for melanoma and all types of skin cancers.  You can determine your skin type by taking this short quiz.  

 

Personal History:

Once you have had a melanoma previously, you are at increased risk of either developing another or of developing a recurrence.  People who have had a basal cell carcinoma or a squamous cell carcinoma are also at increased risk of melanoma.  

 

Weakened Immune System:

People who have weakened immune systems as a result of chemotherapy, organ transplantation, genetic conditions, lymphomas, or HIV/AIDS are at increased risk of melanoma.

 

Family History:

Genetic factors play a major role in the development of melanoma.  If one of your first-degree relatives (mother, father, brother, sister, or children) has had a melanoma, your risk is greater.  About one in ten patients diagnosed with melanoma has a family member with a history of melanoma, and if you have a first-degree relative with melanoma, your risk is 50% greater than people without a family history.