by EBSCO Medical Review Board

A risk factor is something that raises your chances of getting a health problem. You can have melanoma with or without those listed below. The more you have, the greater your chances of getting it. Ask your doctor what you can to do lower your risk.

Melanoma is common people between 40 and 60 years old, but risk is highest in people over 60 years old. It is also more likely to develop in men. But, this can depend on your age and where you live. Women carry a higher risk up to age 50. After 50 years, the risk is higher in men.

Melanoma risk is also higher for:

  • Ultraviolet (UV) light exposure which can come from:
    • Sunlight, tanning beds, or sunlamps. Risk increases the longer you are exposed to UV light.
    • Having sunburns often, even as a child.
    • Working outside such as in construction, landscaping, lifeguarding, or on road crews.
  • Having genes that cause health problems such as xeroderma pigmentosa (XP), hereditary dysplastic nevus syndrome, or familial atypical multiple mole melanoma (FAMMM) syndrome.
  • Having people in your family with melanoma especially a parent, sister, or brother.
  • Having a prior history of any type of skin cancer.
  • People with light skin or eyes, freckles, or red or blond hair. Risk is higher in White people than in Black, Asian, or Hispanic people.
  • Having many moles or irregular moles.
  • Taking certain medicines that make skin more sensitive to light.
  • Taking certain medicines or having health problems that cause a weak immune system.


General information about melanoma. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: Updated May 1, 2019. Accessed May 8, 2019.

Melanoma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: . Updated March 26, 2019. Accessed May 8, 2019.

Melanoma. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: Updated March 2019. Accessed May 8, 2019.

Melanoma: Who gets and causes. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: Accessed May 8, 2019.

Risk factors for melanoma skin cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: Updated May 20, 2016. Accessed May 8, 2019.

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