When it comes to your melanoma risk, there are certain things that can clue you in to your risk and how worried about it you should be. Melanoma is a deadly form of skin cancer that kills many people each and every year. The good news is that catching it early is a great way to get a good prognosis and go on to be cancer free. You should be seeing a dermatologist at least once a year for a full body skin check, but in the meantime, you can keep an eye on things yourself. Keep in mind the following things when you think about your melanoma risk.
1. Time in the Sun
Obviously, one of the biggest things to consider when assessing your melanoma risk is how much time you spend in the sun. The trick here is to think about how much time you spend in the sunshine without sunscreen. The more unprotected sun exposure you get, the higher your risk of developing melanoma. You need to slather on SPF anytime you head outdoors. That really is one of the best ways to ward off skin cancer.
2. Where You Live
Some parts of the world get more sunlight than others, and in some places, the sun’s rays are harsher. If you live in a super sunny place, that’s great for many reasons. But it can also factor in to how likely you are to get melanoma. On the other hand, people who live in rainy, cloudy places or those that don’t get a ton of sunlight, are at a lower risk of melanoma, though it’s still possible.
According to the National Cancer Institute, being male or female contributes to your melanoma risk. Women naturally show off more skin during the summer, but may be more vigilant about wearing sunscreen than men. Both males and females are at risk of developing melanoma, so both genders should be cautious.
Women with really light skin are at a higher risk of developing melanoma than dark skinned ladies. That’s because their skin has less pigment, which means less sun protection. It’s important to note that even women with really dark skin can get melanoma, so it’s still important to be careful about sun exposure. If you have lighter skin, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on any spots or changes to your skin.
5. Presence of Moles
While a small majority of moles actually turn out to be melanoma, experts say that people with more are at a higher risk. If you have lots of moles or freckles, be extra sure you are seeing your dermatologist regularly, especially if one of them changes color or gets larger.
You might be surprised to find that your age plays a role in your melanoma risk. If you are in your thirties or beyond, you likely grew up in a time when sun protection wasn’t as big of a deal as it is now. I grew up in the late 80s and early 90s in Phoenix, and rarely wore sunscreen. That definitely increases the melanoma risk. Older women may not have been as diligent and have naturally had more sun exposure, and are therefore at a higher risk or melanoma.
7. Your Diligence
I know full well how tempting it is to just skip the sunscreen and heat outside. It’s such a pain to make sure I’ve slathered every exposed inch of skin. The more times you make that choice, the higher your risk of melanoma. This form of skin cancer can develop anywhere, including between your toes and on your scalp so be sure you wear sunscreen all over.
What’s your melanoma risk? I hope this list has given you a better idea of what kinds of things to consider. Don’t forget your sunscreen!