Melanoma isn’t just caused by environmental factors like sun exposure, new study finds – CBS Philly

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – New research indicates that melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, is not only caused by environmental factors like sun exposure, family history may also play a role.

Melanoma rates are rising rapidly, doubling in the past 30 years. It is more common in men in general, but before age 50 it strikes a greater number of women.

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After her father was diagnosed with melanoma, Leah Adams discovered that a suspicious mole was also the most serious form of skin cancer.

“It was starting to go black in the middle, uneven edges, edges,” Adams said. “And there was a red ring.”

Melanoma is most commonly associated with sun exposure, but evolving research shows there is also a genetic link.

“What we found is that one in six people who have melanoma and other cancers in their family have an inherited predisposition to melanoma and other cancers,” said Dr. Pauline Funchan.

The Cleveland Clinic research looked at 400 melanoma patients and those with a family history of multiple cancers.

Fortunately, doctors say there are genetic and DNA tests for melanoma.

“So if that person is a carrier, then we know what gene to look for and then the other family members can all look to see if they carry that gene,” Funchan said.

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Early detection is key to surviving any type of cancer. For melanoma, these are regular skin checks.

Here’s what to look for.

It’s the ABC rule: Asymmetry, if a mole has a strange shape or an irregular edge, variable in color, in diameter – larger is more suspicious – and evolving, which changes.

“They may have sudden symptoms like itching or pain,” Dr. Melissa Piliang said.

Adams, who was just 26 when she discovered she had melanoma, had two risk factors – a family history and years of working on tanning.

“I was embarrassed because I felt like I was giving myself cancer because I thought about all the times I should have put on sunscreen, I shouldn’t have gone to a tanning bed” , she said.

Adams underwent surgery and now has regular skin checks.

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Doctors say tanning beds pose a particularly high risk—even a single trip to a tanning bed increases your risk of melanoma.

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