Individuals who are identified as being at a greater risk of developing other forms of skin cancer are also more likely to be affected by malignant melanoma. There are also several additional risk factors associated with an increased likelihood of a person suffering from this serious form of health condition.


Risk Factors for Malignant Melanoma

In 100 Questions and Answers About Melanoma and Other Skin Cancers, McClay et al. (2003) identify five key risk factors which include the following:

  • individuals with a sunburn history before age 15
  • individuals with a family history of the condition
  • those with dysplastic moles
  • those with personal history of melanoma
  • those with immune disorders

The first risk factor really highlights just how important it is to educate children and young people on the importance of wearing sunscreen to minimise the risk of serious skin damage and health complications in adulthood. Those who have already experienced melanoma are recognised to have up to a 5% chance of redeveloping the condition. The latter group includes those with HIV, AIDS, patients who have a prior history of lymphoma and those who are
awaiting organ transplant.


Geophysical Risks Associated with Melanoma

In addition to circumstances such as family history or personal history of melanoma, there are also geophysical factors believed to play a part. For example, it is recognised that where one lives in terms of latitude will determine the level of UV exposure. The closer a person lives to the equator (hottest part of the earth), the greater the level of exposure to potentially harmful UV rays. Another geophysical risk is relevant to those who live at higher altitudes, as they are exposed to considerably greater quantities of UV radiation in comparison to those living nearer to sea level.

This connection between location and UV levels helps to understand why it is relatively easy to end up getting sun-burnt whilst skiing, as far less time is required before one's skin is affected the higher up the mountain one travels.


Avoid Sun Exposure from 11am to 2pm

As the time of day has a big impact upon how strong the sun becomes there are many experts in skincare and cancer research who recommend that exposure to sun in the middle of the day when it is at its most powerful is best avoided. This is primarily due to the manner in which the planet spins on its axis, meaning that at certain times of the day where the sun is located directly overhead, radiation is able to reach the surface of the Earth much more directly.

As highlighted above, there are several factors which increase the risk of one developing forms of skin cancer such as malignant melanoma. Any family history or personal history of the condition is a significant risk factor in addition to sunburn before age 15. Therefore, it is vital to use broad spectrum sunscreen with an appropriate SPF number from a young age.