Are you over 50 years old?
Have you ever had melanoma?
Does your family have a history of melanoma?
Do you have 50 or more moles?
Do you have a mole that is changing over time? (Either in size, shape, or colour?)
Do you have a lot of freckles?
Do you have red hair, blonde hair, or light-coloured eyes? (blue, green, hazel)
Do you have a history of sunburns, or excessive sun exposure?
Have you ever gone indoor tanning, or used sunbeds?
Your answers show that you may be at a higher risk of skin cancer than the general population. Read below to find out what your answers indicate, and what you can do to stay protected and keep your skin healthy.
Congratulations, you are at low risk for skin cancer. Although you may not fit the standard definition of an individual who is at “high risk”, it is still important that you get to know your skin and your moles, and monitor them regularly. 70% of skin cancers are discovered by patients themselves, not by doctors. Because you know your skin best, you are more likely to notice small changes that may occur over time, and it is important that you speak with your doctor if you do notice anything of concern. Keep an eye on your moles by performing monthly self-checks and look for warning signs using the ABCD criteria.
In general, your overall risk for cancer increases with time, as your body ages and your cells become more susceptible to developing a disease. This risk applies to skin cancers as well - however, melanoma in particular is also common in younger individuals, and people of all ages should be monitoring their body for warning signs.
If you have previously had melanoma, your risk of developing it again is higher than the general population. Extra precaution and regular visits to your doctor should be continued.
Although a family history of melanoma does not mean all other family members will develop the disease, it does mean that the rest of the family is at higher risk than the general population. While this risk varies based on the degree of relation between the individual and the family member with melanoma, nearly 8-12% of patients with melanoma have some family history. Therefore, if melanoma or other skin cancers run in your family, it is important to keep an eye on your moles, monitor your skin’s health and visit your doctor regularly.
If you have over 50 moles, even if they are small and normal, your risk of developing melanoma is 3 times higher than the general population. Although melanoma can develop in new, growing moles, it often arises in existing ones. If you have 5 or moles that are larger than 5 mm in diameter, the same risk applies. It is especially important to get to know your moles and monitor any potential changes over time. Learn how to perform a thorough skin self-check. If you notice anything of concern, make an appointment with your dermatologist.
Tracking changes over time can lead to the early detection and prevention of skin cancer. It is important to get to know your moles and watch for any potential changes that may develop over time. A growing or evolving mole can be a warning sign for skin cancer and should be shown to a doctor.
People with a high density of freckles have double the risk of developing melanoma than those with little to no freckling. If you have many freckles, especially on the upper back, you should take extra precaution to monitor your skin for any changes or warning signs of skin cancer. It is recommended you see your dermatologist regularly for full-body exams.
People with light-coloured hair and eyes often fall into the Skin Type I category of the Fitzpatrick skin type classification, which determines an individual’s general risk for skin damage from the sun based on skin type. Individuals with Skin Type I are at a higher risk of developing skin cancer because they burn more easily and more often than other skin types. If you have this skin type, it is essential that you take extra precaution to protect your skin from sun damage, even with minimal sun exposure.
Excessive sun, or UV exposure is linked to a higher risk of skin cancer because of the skin damage it can produce at the cellular level. It is the most important environmental risk factor for melanoma *, and fortunately it can be prevented by taking extra precautions to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays.
* Psaty, E. L., Scope, A., Halpern, A. C. and Marghoob, A. A. (2010), Defining the patient at high risk for melanoma. International Journal of Dermatology, 49: 362–376. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-4632.2010.04381.x
Research shows that indoor tanning is linked to an increased risk of melanoma and skin cancer. Using tanning beds increases your risk of developing skin cancer by 74% *, compared to those who have never tanned indoors.
* Indoor Tanning Increases Melanoma Risk by 74 Percent - SkinCancer.org http://www.skincancer.org/news/tanning/indoor-tanning-increases-melanoma-risk-by-74-percent