Melanoma Risk Factors and Prevention

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Symptoms of Melanoma

The most common symptom of melanoma is a mole that:

  • Has irregular edges or is asymmetrical in shape or size
  • Changes in shape, size, or color
  • Is more than one color
  • Itches, bleeds, or oozes      

However, melanoma might develop without a mole or without change to a mole. Other signs to look for include:

  • Pigment that spreads from a spot on the skin into surrounding areas
  • Irritation or swelling outside a mole’s border
  • Dark streaks under the nails
  • Dark spots in the iris of the eye
  • Sores that don’t heal in the nose or mouth

Melanoma Risk Factors and Prevention

Due to risk factors such as age, race, gender, and family history, melanoma can’t be completely prevented. For example:

  • Melanoma is much more prevalent among Caucasians (1 in 40 lifetime risk) than it is among African-Americans (1 in 1,000) and Hispanics (1 in 200).
  • The risk of melanoma increases as people age. The average age at diagnosis is 63.
  • Melanoma occurs significantly more often in men than it does in women. More than 52,000 men and nearly 35,000 women in the U.S. were estimated to have been diagnosed with the disease in 2017. 

But people can take steps to limit their risk for developing melanoma. Up to 90 percent of melanomas result from ultraviolet (UV) radiation overexposure; the sun is the most common source of UV that most people experience.

To reduce their sun exposure, we recommend that people:

  • Stay in the shade
  • Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 30 rating or higher
  • Wear protective clothing when in the sun, including a long-sleeve shirt, hat, and protective sunglasses
  • Avoid tanning beds, which also generate UV rays

 In addition, we recommend that everyone regularly examine their skin for abnormal moles.