Risk Factors for Melanoma

Last Modified: May 20, 2011


Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

What are the biggest risk factors for developing melanoma?


Christopher Miller, MD, Assistant Professor in Dermatology and Director of the Moh's Surgery Program at Penn Medicine, responds:

Multiple factors increase the risk for melanoma, some of which are in your control and some of which are out of your control. Chronic sun exposure or burns from teh sun increase your risk for melanoma (2-3 fold increased risk after a blistering sunburn during childhood). Protect your skin to decrease risk.

Most risk factors are out of your control. Fair skin, light colored eyes and hair, multiple freckles are all risk factors. People at highest risk have these characteristics and multiple moles/nevi, a first degree family member with melanoma, or a personal history of melanoma.

People who have combinations of these factors are at highest risk.

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series: Sun Safety and Skin Cancer Prevention Webchat. View the entire transcript on Sun Safety.