Family History of Melanoma Dec 21, 2021 / by Complete Family Dermatology Team
When visiting a dermatologist, have you been asked “Has anyone in your family had melanoma or any other form of skin cancer”? While it may seem personal, the answer to the question can heavily determine your risk of developing skin cancer. Here’s why a dermatologist asks, and what you should know about your family’s history…
Family History Repeats ItselfDo you know the phrase “history repeats itself”? In reference to dermatology, this phrase is quite accurate. Having a first-degree relative who has had melanoma increases your risk of getting skin cancer yourself. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, one in every ten patients diagnosed with melanoma has a family member with a history of skin cancer. While dermatologists ask specifically about melanoma, it’s good to share about other cancers or diseases that family members may have. Many other health conditions have genetic connections with melanoma.
First-Degree Relatives Increases Your RiskSo you might not know the whole family tree’s history, but there are a few details that you should seek out in particular if you don’t know already. First of all, you should find out the number of relatives that have had melanoma, especially, first-degree relatives like parents or siblings. Just by having a close relative diagnosed with melanoma, increases your chance of developing cancer yourself by 50 percent compared to individuals who don’t have a family history at all. While the number of first-degree relatives with melanoma is the most telling factor for your risk, it’s helpful to share information that you know about your family’s history beyond your closest relatives when talking with your dermatologist.
Familial MelanomaWhile rare, familial melanoma is when two or more first-degree relatives have been diagnosed with melanoma. Having two or more family members with melanoma greatly increases your chances of developing melanoma — up to 70 percent.
Protecting Your SkinIf skin cancer runs in your family, it’s important to be extra careful when it comes to protecting your skin. Here’s what we recommend:
- Visit your dermatologist at least once a year for a skin check
- Perform a self-skin exam every month
- Use sunscreen every day — Choose broad-spectrum, SPF of 30 (or higher), and water-resistant sunscreen
- Avoid the sun during peak hours — 10 am - 4 pm
- Reapply sunscreen every two hours (or more if swimming or sweating)
- Cover up with protective clothing
- Avoid sun tanning or tanning beds
- Be aware of sun-sensitive medications