Risk Factors


Tanning Beds

75% increase risk of life-threatening melanoma from just one session before age 35. Read all about it at  "The DermReview"


After a sunburn fades lasting damage remains, and accelerates skin aging and is the leading cause in cases of basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Skin Type

Skin type is a major factor in your risk for skin cancer. While it is true that people with fair skin tones are more at risk for sun damage and skin cancer, all skin types are at risk. Musician Bob Marley died at the age of 36 from melanoma.

Unprotected Exposure to UVA & UVB Rays

Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a major risk factor.  UV radiation is a proven cause of basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma. UV exposure that leads to sunburn plays a strong roll in developing melanoma.

UVA cause tanning, are associated with skin aging and the development of skin cancer. UVA can penetrate windows and cloud cover.

UVB penetrates and damages the outer layers of your skin and causes burning. UVB is connected to the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) on labels of sunscreen products. The SPF number tells you how long the sun's radiation would take to redden your skin when using the product compared to not using sunscreen.


If a person has one first-degree relative with melanoma, his or her risk of developing melanoma is two to three times greater than the general population risk. The risk is MUCH higher (30-70x) if there are multiple first-degree family members with melanoma.

Atypical Moles

People with 10 or more atypical moles have 12X the risk of melanoma.   An atypical mole is one that does not match your typical mole pattern and can occur anywhere on your body. The best advice is to know your skin. You should watch for:

  • *  Itching, bleeding, crusting, oozing or swelling of a skin lesion
  • *  Changes in color, size, shape, texture or elevation of a skin lesion
  • *  Pain

Organ Transplant

Immuno-suppressants used to prevent rejection causes a significant increase in risk for melanoma.

Red Hair

Redheads carry a gene known as MC1R which gives them the traits seen in most redheads (red hair, freckles, light skin). Mutations in that gene can cause melanoma, so their risk for melanoma can vary from 10 to 100 times that of people who don't carry the gene.



While all of the above are important risk factors, only 30% of melanomas develop from existing moles. 70% are incipient which means they can appear anywhere on your skin including scalp, nail beds or even between your toes and bottoms of your feet. Melanoma does not necessarily occur where you have been sunburned.

Teach your teens about how dangerous tanning beds are by sharing this guide. Learn More Now


Melanoma Risk Predictor

The Melanoma Risk Predictor is not intended to be used as a substitute for your doctor's advice. You should always consult your doctor if you think you might be at risk, particularly if you have noticed a new or changed skin lesion.

ASCS applauds the researchers in Queensland, Australia.  The Health History Questionnaire you complete with the ASCS may allow researchers in the USA to develop these type of useful tools.  Our research will result the eventual insurance coverage for skin cancer screening as well as to teach artificial intelligence to identify skin cancer.