Risk Factors and Signs of Melanoma

Unusual moles, exposure to sunlight, and health history can affect the risk of developing melanoma. Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn't mean that you will not get cancer. People who think they may be at risk should discuss this with their doctor. Risk factors for melanoma include:

  • a positive family history of melanoma,
  • prior melanoma,
  • multiple atypical moles or dysplastic nevi (often these are large and raised nevi, with poorly defined borders and uneven colors),
  • light complexion or fair skin that freckles and burns easily, doesn't tan, or tans poorly,
  • sun exposure,
  • history of many blistering sunburns as a child.

However, melanoma can occur in ANY ethnic group and also in areas of the body without substantial sun exposure.

Signs of melanoma

Possible signs of melanoma include a change in the appearance of a mole or pigmented area. These and other symptoms may be caused by melanoma. Other conditions may cause the same symptoms. These signs of melanoma are often called the ABCDEs of skin cancer detection.  A doctor should be consulted if any of the following problems occur:

  a mole that is Asymmetrical
  has irregular Borders
  has more than one Color
  has a change in Diameter  
  appears to be Evolving (E)
over time; itches, oozes, bleeds,
or is ulcerated