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Melanoma is an aggressive form of skin cancer. It is one of the fastest growing cancers worldwide. Of all cancer subtypes, incidence of melanoma between 1950-2000 increased the most. Lifetime risk of developing melanoma in the U.S. is 1 in 50, and risk increases with:
People with mutations in genes associated with hereditary melanoma such as CDKN2A and CDK4 are at increased risk. Mutations in other genes, including BRCA2, PTEN, and BAP1 have also been implicated, although evidence is limited. FORCE and Moffitt Cancer Center collaborated on an unpublished survey that suggested a correlation between BRCA1 mutations and melanoma. More research is needed to confirm this link.
High-risk individuals should have annual skin checks by a dermatologist using a specialized magnification instrument called a dermatoscope. Full-body photography may also be used to track mole changes. It is important to recognize changes in the skin and self examine moles each month between appointments with a dermatologist.
Remaining vigilant about sun safety and protection helps to prevent melanoma. Sunscreens absorb ultraviolet light so that sun doesn’t reach the skin, while sunblocks create a physical barrier to block UV rays. The best skin protection comes from formulations that use titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, Helioplex, or Mexoryl. It is best to use other forms of protection, such as protective hats and clothing, along with sunscreen. Avoiding the sun during peak hours between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM is also important.
If melanoma runs in your family, be sure to consult with a genetics specialist to determine your risk and management options.