In short, melanoma can affect anyone no matter age, gender or ethnicity, but there are some factors that put some people at greater risk than others. So who does melanoma affect?
Those at greater risk for developing melanoma — UV exposure
Anyone who has excessive exposure to the sun or tanning beds or who doesn’t take measures to protect themselves from harmful UV rays is at an increased risk of developing malignant melanoma. According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, the vast majority of melanomas are caused by the sun.
One UK study found that about 86 percent of melanomas can be attributed to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Further, they cite that, on average, a person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had more than five sunburns. This risk can be mitigated if precautions, like applying sunscreen, are taken.
A study published by the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that regular daily use of an SPF 15 or higher sunscreen reduces the risk of developing melanoma by 50 percent.
Those at greater risk for developing melanoma — race & ethnicity
Another big determining factor for whether or not a person will develop skin cancer is their race and ethnicity, with darker skin types at a lower risk. Statistics from the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention illustrates this. In 2013, they found that, among men, white men had the highest rate of getting melanoma of the skin, followed by American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN),Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander (A/PI), and black men.
Among women, white women had the highest rate of getting melanoma of the skin, followed by Hispanic, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian/Pacific Islander, and black women.
The reason for this is that darker skin types have higher amounts of melanin in their skin. Melanin is the pigment that gives our skin color and also protects us from UV rays. But those with darker skin still need to be careful as they are often at a higher risk for developing more pernicious and hidden types of melanomas that can develop on skin that is not exposed to the sun.
A study in the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology found that melanomas in blacks, Asians, Filipinos, Indonesians, and native Hawaiians most often occur on non-exposed skin with less pigment, with up to 60-75 percent of tumors arising on the palms, soles, mucous membranes and nail regions.
Other factors that increase the risk of melanoma:
· Those who have previously been diagnosed with the disease.
· Those who have a family history of skin cancer.
· People with a lowered immunity have been found to have a greater likelihood of a malignant melanoma diagnosis.
· Those with more moles and freckles.
· People with birthmarks.
Read more about: Causes of Melanoma