No one knows the exact causes of melanoma. However, research has shown that people with certain melanoma risk factors are more likely than others to develop melanoma.
People who have had at least one severe, blistering sunburn as a child or teenager are at increased risk of melanoma.
Melanoma sometimes runs in families. Having two or more close relatives who have had this disease is a risk factor. About 10% of all patients with melanoma have a family member with this disease.
Melanoma occurs more frequently in people who have fair skin that burns or freckles easily (these people also usually have red or blond hair and blue eyes) than in people with dark skin.
The risk of melanoma is greatest for people who have a large number of atypical moles (called dysplastic nevi). About one in 20 people has at least one unusual mole that looks different from an ordinary mole. The risk is especially high for people with a family history of both atypical moles and melanoma.
Caucasians, fair-skinned people living at low latitudes, and men ages of 50 to 60, have a higher risk of developing melanoma.