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ASK THE EXPERT: Does skin color increase melanoma risk? What else raises risk?
Looking for a Dermatologist?

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Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States with over 2 million cases last year. Melanoma is the most serious malignancy and it arise from melanocytes, the pigment producing cells in the skin.

Your skin type (based on degree of pigmentation) plays a role in your susceptibility to skin cancer. Type 1 skin is the fairest. Type 6 is the darkest. Skin cancer can occur in anyone of any skin type so sun protection and sunscreen use is always important when outdoors.

Patients with Type 1 and 2 skin always or usually burn and are at increased risk for all types of skin cancer. Fair skin types have less melanin pigment in their skin for protection against the damaging ultraviolet rays. Types 3 and 4 have a little more pigment and although they tan more easily, they will still suffer skin damage. Types 5 and 6 have the darkest skin and don't burn. However, they are at risk for melanoma which affects non sun exposed areas of the body including the palms, soles,mucous membranes and nails.

Other risk factors for developing skin cancer and melanoma include blistering sunburns, >50 moles, atypical moles, blonde or red hair, blue eyes, HIV, organ transplant, immunosuppression, genetic mutations and excessive sunlight exposure (called ultraviolet B and ultraviolet A radiation). The greater the exposure, the greater the damage! Any person with a 1st degree relative (mother, father, brother, sister or one’s children) with melanoma has a greater chance of developing melanoma. Lastly, if you have one melanoma you are at increased risk for developing a second melanoma.

You cannot change your skin type, number of moles, or family history. The only ONE factor you can alter is your UV light exposure. So, seek shade, cover up, apply sunscreen and do not use tanning booths!
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