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Melanoma/Skin Cancer Health Center

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General Information About Skin Cancer

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    Over the past 20 years, the number of deaths from melanoma has decreased slightly among white men and women younger than 50 years. During that time, the number of deaths from melanoma has increased slightly among white men older than 50 years and stayed about the same among white women older than 50 years.

    See the following PDQ summaries for more information about skin cancer:

    • Skin Cancer Prevention
    • Skin Cancer Treatment
    • Melanoma Treatment

    Being exposed to ultraviolet radiation may increase the risk of skin cancer.

    Anything that increases your chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn't mean that you will not get cancer. People who think they may be at risk should discuss this with their doctor.

    Being exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation and having skin that is sensitive to UV radiation are risk factors for skin cancer. UV radiation is the name for the invisible rays that are part of the energy that comes from the sun. Sunlamps and tanning beds also give off UV radiation.

    Risk factors for nonmelanoma and melanoma cancers are not the same.

    Nonmelanoma skin cancer risk factors include:
    • Being exposed to natural sunlight or artificial sunlight (such as from tanning beds) over long periods of time.
    • Having a fair complexion, which includes the following:
      • Fair skin that freckles and burns easily, does not tan, or tans poorly.
      • Blue or green or other light-colored eyes.
      • Red or blond hair.
    • Having actinic keratosis.
    • Past treatment with radiation.
    • Having a weakened immune system.
    • Being exposed to arsenic.
    Melanoma skin cancer risk factors include:
    • Having a fair complexion, which includes the following:
      • Fair skin that freckles and burns easily, does not tan, or tans poorly.
      • Blue or green or other light-colored eyes.
      • Red or blond hair.
    • Being exposed to natural sunlight or artificial sunlight (such as from tanning beds) over long periods of time.
    • Having a history of many blistering sunburns, especially as a child or teenager.
    • Having several large or many small moles.
    • Having a family history of unusual moles (atypical nevus syndrome).
    • Having a family or personal history of melanoma.
    • Being white.

    WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

    Last Updated: February 25, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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