A Family History of Skin Cancer is a Risk Factor

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer that is diagnosed, so it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the risk factors of this disease to determine whether you have an increased chance of getting it. While risk factors will not indicate that you will definitely have a cancer diagnosis at some point in your life, it does mean that your chances of that diagnosis might be higher than that of other people without the risk factors. On the other hand, a lack of risk factors doesn’t mean that you definitely won’t get the disease. Annual screenings are still an important part of skin cancer prevention for everyone. However, knowing that you have a risk factor, like a family history of skin cancer, will tell you that you need to be even more vigilant about watching your skin and talking to your doctor about any possible concerns.

All in the Family

As with other types of cancers, a family history of skin cancer does increase your odds of having the disease. Statistics show that people who are diagnosed with melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, have a one in ten chance of having a family member with the disease as well. The statistics will vary based on which family members have had the illness. If it is a first-degree melanoma that has been diagnosed with melanoma, you will have a 50% higher chance of developing the illness than someone who does not have this family history of skin cancer. This means that if you are diagnosed with skin cancer, your doctor will probably recommend that your immediate relatives begin getting regular skin cancer screenings as well.

There is another family tendency that doctors will look at closely when it comes to a family history of skin cancer. Some people have moles that are not cancerous yet, but stand a greater chance of becoming malignant at some point. This syndrome is called Familial Atypical Multiple Mole Melanoma Syndrome, or FAMMM. This means that if you or a family member has any of these types of moles, you will stand a greater chance of developing melanoma. In these situations, your doctor can advise you on how often you should have skin cancer screenings done.

Other risk factors for skin cancer include fair skin, a presence of moles on the body and sun exposure resulting in burns. Any of these factors, along with a family history of skin cancer should be discussed with your doctor so that a screening schedule can be determined. Early detection is the key in effectively treating some types of skin cancer. Knowing your risk factors, like a family history of skin cancer, can help you to know how often to screen yourself for this disease.

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