NCCN Guidelines for Patients® | Melanoma - page 13

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NCCN Guidelines for Patients
®
: Melanoma
Version 1.2013
Part 1: About melanoma
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Definitions:
Atypical mole:
A mole
that looks different from a
normal or common mole
Genes:
A set of coded
instructions in cells needed
for making and controlling
cells
Melanin:
A substance that
gives color to the skin
UV radiation:
Invisible light
energy that comes from
the sun, sun lamps, and
tanning beds; UV radiation
has a wavelength shorter
than visible light but longer
than x-rays
1.6 Melanoma risks and prevention
Risk factors
Exactly what causes melanoma is unknown. However, many risk factors of
melanoma are known. A risk factor is anything that increases the chance of
getting a disease. Some risk factors are passed down from parents to children
through genes. Other risk factors are activities that people do. Having one or
more risk factors doesn’t mean you’ll develop melanoma. Likewise, melanoma
occurs in some people who have no risk factors. The major risk factors of
melanoma include:
Ultraviolet radiation.
Melanoma often occurs on parts of the body exposed to
UV (
u
ltra
v
iolet) radiation. The main source of UV radiation is sunlight. Tanning
lamps and booths also expose skin to UV radiation. Too much exposure
damages the skin and increases the risk for skin cancer. Whether skin exposure
was too much depends on UV intensity, length of exposure, and how well the
skin was protected. Severe sunburns with blisters, especially in youth, increase
the risk for melanoma.
Many or atypical moles.
Moles are dense areas of melanin. Babies usually
don’t have moles. They first appear during youth and continue to appear until
about age 40. Most adults have moles. Most moles don’t become cancerous
(malignant). However, having many moles, large moles, or atypical moles puts
you at higher risk for melanoma.
Fair complexion.
Having a fair complexion raises your risk for developing
melanoma. Examples of a fair complexion include red or blond hair, blue or
green eyes, or skin that easily freckles or sunburns. Fair skin is less protective
against UV radiation because it has less melanin.
Family history.
Although rare, melanoma can run in families. Thus, you have a
higher risk of developing melanoma if a blood relative has had melanoma. The
more family members with melanoma, the more you are at risk.
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