Causes and risk factors
The primary risk factors for developing melanoma is exposure to UV radiation. This can happen through natural sunlight. UV rays damage the DNA (genetic material) in the skin's cells.
It is important to keep in mind the damage that can be caused by excessive exposure to the sunlight and to take measures to protect oneself. However, experts recommend regular exposure to sunlight in small doses. This helps our body produce vitamin D, which keeps our bones and teeth healthy. It also helps the immune system and has anti-cancer effects.
The degree of exposure necessary depends on your hair and skin type, the time of year, and the geographical area where you are.
It is important not to stay in the sun long enough for your skin to turn red or burn. Severe sunburns that cause blistering, especially during childhood, can increase our risk of developing melanoma in the future.
- Artificial tanning systems
These system use artificial UV rays that damage the skin's DNA. This can increase the risk of melanoma. The earlier a person starts to do this and the more this is used increases the risk.
- Skin type
People who have light skin, reddish or white hair, blue eyes and freckles are more sensitive to the sun. Because of their skin type they burn more easily and have a higher risk of developing melanoma.
Having naturally darker skin or hair lowers the risk of having melanoma, though this does not mean you can never get it.
People who have many moles (especially more than 100) have a higher risk of developing melanoma. The same happens with people who have larger-than-average moles or moles that have an irregular shape or color. These moles (sometimes called atypical dysplastic nevi) rarely provoke melanoma, though it important to have these checked periodically.
- Family history
Your risk increases if you have a family history of melanoma, especially if two or more close relatives have had the disease. Only a small number of melanomas are believed to be caused by inherited genes.
Some of these genes may also be related to pancreatic cancer.
- Reduced immune response
People with weakened immune systems have a higher risk of developing melanoma.