Risk Factors

Having a risk factor does not mean you will develop cancer, but that you are at an increased risk for developing the disease. If you are concerned you have risk factors associated with melanoma, speak with your doctor. Common risk factors for melanoma are:

Fair Skin - Melanoma occurs more frequently in people who have fair skin that burns or freckles easily.

Family History - Melanoma sometimes runs in families. Having a close relative with melanoma increases your risk two to three times more than the average person who does not have a close relative with the disease.

Moles - Having many moles increases the risk of developing melanoma. Atypical moles (dysplastic nevi) are more likely than ordinary moles to become cancerous. Atypical moles are common, and many people have a few of these abnormal moles.

Personal History - People who have been treated for melanoma have a high risk of a second melanoma.

Severe Sunburns - People who have had at least one severe, blistering sunburn as a child or teenager are at increased risk of melanoma. Because of this, doctors advise that parents protect children’s skin from the sun. Sunburns in adulthood are also a risk factor for melanoma.

Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation
- Melanoma is more common in people who live in areas that get large amounts of UV radiation from the sun. Artificial sources of UV radiation, such as sunlamps and tanning booths, also cause skin damage and increase the risk of melanoma.

Weakened Immune System
- People whose immune system is weakened by certain cancers, by drugs given following organ transplantation, or by HIV are at increased risk of developing melanoma.


Updated March 23, 2015