NCCN Guidelines for Patients® | Melanoma - page 14

NCCN Guidelines for Patients
®
Melanoma, Version 1.2014
12
1
About melanoma
Melanoma risks and prevention
sunlight. Tanning lamps and booths also expose skin
to UV energy. 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—a substance that
gives color to the skin. 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 cancer. However, having
many moles, large moles, or atypical moles puts you
at higher risk for melanoma. An atypical mole is a
mole that looks different from a normal or common
mole.
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 energy 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.
Xeroderma pigmentosum
Xeroderma pigmentosum is a rare medical condition
in which the skin can’t repair itself from UV damage.
It is passed down from parents to children. It causes
an extreme skin reaction to UV energy because the
skin can’t heal itself well. Xeroderma pigmentosum
increases the risk for both melanoma and other types
of skin cancer.
Age
Melanoma is one of the most common cancers in
people younger than age 30. This may stem from
more use of tanning beds in this age group. People
with a family history of melanoma may also develop
melanoma at a young age. About half of the people
who develop melanoma do so after age 50.
Immune suppression
Some diseases and drugs weaken (suppress) the
immune system—the body’s natural defense against
infection and disease. Individuals with a weakened
immune system may have a higher risk of developing
melanoma.
Prevention
The number of people with melanoma is increasing,
but there are ways to lower your risk. Check your skin
and tell your doctor about any changes in your moles
or skin. If you have many moles, a dermatologist
should check your skin regularly. A dermatologist is a
doctor who’s an expert in skin diseases.
One of the most important ways to prevent melanoma
skin cancer is to limit your sun exposure. Parents
should make sure their children have sun protection.
Protecting children is very important since sunburns
at an early age can greatly increase the risk for
melanoma later in life. There are many ways to
protect your skin.
Stay in the shade.
This is the best way to
avoid UV light when outdoors.
Wear clothes that protect your skin.
Long-
sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats with brims
make a difference. You can find clothing at
sporting goods stores made from fabrics
designed to limit UV exposure.
Use broad-spectrum sunscreen
with an
SPF (
s
un
p
rotection
f
actor) of 15 or higher
every day, because UV light is always present.
Broad-spectrum sunscreen protects against
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