What are the risk factors?
A risk factor is a behaviour, substance or condition that increases the risk of developing cancer. Some people are more likely to develop melanoma; it is often diagnosed slightly more often in men than in women . Risk factors include :
- Ultraviolet radiation (UVR) – UVA and UVB rays are both dangerous to the skin and can cause skin cancers, including melanoma
- Excessive exposure to UV from the sun or sunbeds – Tanning or sunbeds increase your exposure to UV rays, thus raising your risk of developing melanoma and other skin cancers
- The number of moles – Moles occur when melanocytes grow together in a group, most are harmless but the higher the number the more risk you have of melanoma
- Atypical moles – An atypical mole, or dysplastic nevus, look different from normal moles. Atypical moles are often larger than 6 mm and have different colours which range from pink to dark brown
- A history of blistering sunburns – People who have had one or more blistering sunburns during childhood or adolescence are at a higher risk of developing melanoma
- A fair complexion – People with a fair complexion are at higher for skin cancers–as they have less pigment, or melanin, in their skin; experts think that melanin protects the skin from UVR
- A close personal history of melanoma or other skin cancers – Individuals who previously had melanoma have a higher risk recurrence; previously having had other primary skin cancers have also heightened the risk
- A close family history of melanoma or other skin cancers – If an immediate family member has been diagnosed with melanoma, your risk is higher; this could be due to similar skin color, sun exposure habits or genetic mutations, although, the latter is rarer
- A weakened immune system – Individuals with a weaker immune system are at higher risk of developing melanoma, the immune system can be compromised by certain diseases and drugs
- Outdoor occupations make workers more vulnerable to skin cancer due to prolonged sun exposure, so protective measures are vitally important for this group.
The risk can be multiplied if you have several of these risk factors, for example, if you have unusual moles and a family history of melanoma.
 “Risk Factors for Melanoma.” Canadian Cancer Society. Canadian Cancer Society, 2015. Web. 02 June 2015.
 “Melanoma Causes and Risk Factors.” Skin Cancer Foundation. Skin Cancer Foundation, 2015. Web. 02 June 2015.
Gawkrodger, D.J. (2004). Occupational Skin Cancers. Occupational Medicine, 54(7). doi: 10.1093/occmed/kqh098