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Having one or more of the factors that increase risk for melanoma doesn’t necessarily mean you will develop melanoma. Some people without major risk factors can also develop the cancer.
Major risk factors include:
Age: Melanoma risk increases with age, especially in men and women over age 50
Early childhood exposure to sun: If you played outdoors a lot as a child and had sunburns, this may increase your risk of developing melanoma later in life. Ongoing sun exposure as an adult and tanning bed use also contribute to melanoma risk.
Many moles: Though most melanomas don’t come from moles, melanoma patients often have a lot of moles (also called “nevi”), whether they are common moles or look slightly atypical in color and shape (called atypical or dysplastic nevi). It is still possible to get melanoma even if you don’t have a lot of moles.
Family history of melanoma: Having a close relative who had melanoma increases your risk, but most melanomas are not hereditary.
The main risk factor that you can control is reducing exposure to the sun throughout life and especially, avoiding the use of tanning beds. Both natural and artificial ultraviolet (UV) light exposure increases the risk for melanoma, especially in light-skinned people.