Your risk of developing skin cancers including Melanoma depend on both genetics (an inbuilt tendency to produce skin cancers) and the amount of sun (or UV) exposure you have had in your lifetime.  The more factors you have the higher your risk becomes.
  

Genetic factors:

  • Family history especially of Melanoma
  • Previous diagnosis of Dysplastic Nevus Syndrome
  • Presence of  large moles
  • Presence of large numbers of moles
  • Presence of unusual looking moles
  • Fair skin and pale eyes


Amount of UV exposure – need to consider:

  • Time spent outside –work, hobbies, sporting activities
  • Use of sunscreens, protective clothing etc (reduces risk)
  • Use of sunbeds or solariums
  • History of severe sun burns in childhood or adolescence
  • Degree of sundamage (reflects amount of  UV exposure) evidenced by:

               • Wrinkles
               • Diffuse pigmentation
               • Telangiectasia (broken capillaries)
               • Loss of elasticity in skin
               • Thinning of skin


The presence of the following should raise your suspicions with regard to the likely presence of skin cancers: 

  • A spot that has recently changed in size, shape or colour
  • A spot that has become scabby, or has periods of bleeding or itching
  • A new mole (after the age of about 40)
  • A mole that looks different to the rest (the “Ugly Duckling”)


Who is at risk?
The simple answer is that we are all at risk. Not only does Australia have the highest incidence of skin cancer in the world, but the incidence particularly of Melanoma is increasing so the current statistic that the vast majority of us (2 thirds) will develop at least one skin cancer in our lifetimes will only rise further.


Can we reduce our risk?
Currently we are unable to manipulate genetics to lower our general risk of developing skin cancer, but the reduction of damage to our skin from UV exposure is something that we are all able to do. We need not only to consider our own skin, but very importantly we need to protect our children’s skin and to teach them the importance of this.


Further reading:
Melanoma
Sun Protection
Naevi/Moles
Dysplastic Nevus Syndrome
BCC
SCC
UV and Your Skin