Screening tests may be able to find certain types of cancer if a person is at risk but does not have symptoms. Early detection of melanoma greatly increases the odds of successful treatment.
Read more about MD Anderson’s skin cancer screening guidelines.
Melanoma Risk Factors
Anything that increases your chance of getting melanoma is a risk factor.
Sun damage, especially a history of peeling sunburns, is the main risk factor for melanoma. Artificial sunlight from tanning beds causes the same risk for melanoma as natural sunlight.
Other risk factors for melanoma include:
- Fair complexion: People with blond or red hair, light skin, blue eyes and a tendency to sunburn are at increased risk.
- Previous melanoma
- Moles (nevi): Having a lot of benign (non-cancer) moles
- Family history of melanoma
- Atypical mole and melanoma syndrome (AMS): Previously known as dysplastic nevus syndrome, AMS is characterized by large numbers of atypical moles. If you have AMS, you and your family members should be screened regularly
Not everyone with risk factors gets melanoma. However, if you have risk factors, it’s a good idea to discuss them with your health care provider.
If you have been diagnosed with melanoma, we’re here to help. Call 1-877-MDA-6789 to make an appointment or request an appointment online.
Why Choose MD Anderson?
- Innovative melanoma treatments, including lymphatic mapping and sentinel node biopsy, targeted therapy, limb perfusion, interleukin-2 and immune-based therapy
- Skilled multidisciplinary team with expertise in melanoma
- Most advanced diagnostic methods
- One of the world’s largest programs
- Nationally recognized research program with many clinical trials
- Melanoma is part of MD Anderson's Moon Shots Program: an ambitious effort to reduce cancer deaths through the rapid discovery and implementation of new treatments
Melanoma Knowledge Center
You can lower your risk of getting melanoma by making certain choices.
- Avoid sunburn
- Limit sun exposure
- Do not use tanning beds or other artificial sunlight sources
- Wear a sunscreen rated at least SPF 30, a broad-brimmed hat and a long-sleeved shirt when you’re outside
- Wear sunglasses when you are outside
- Stay inside in the sun’s peak hours between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.
- Protect your children. Babies under 6 months old should be completely shielded from direct sun exposure. Apply sunscreen to infants over 6 months old, and teach older children to make applying sunscreen a regular habit before they go outside.
- Examine your skin monthly. Have any suspicious moles checked by a health care practitioner
- If you are at risk, have your skin examined at least once each year by a dermatologist.
Research shows that many cancers can be prevented if people applied everything known about cancer prevention to their lives. Visit the Prevention section of our website to find out steps you can take to avoid cancer.