A dermatologist examining a mark on a patient's shoulder to determine if it is skin cancer

Is Skin Cancer Hereditary?

The C-word often brings feelings of fear or panic to many people. And unlike many other cancers, the chances of developing skin cancer are high for many people. The good news is that skin cancer treatment has a huge success rate provided treatment begins early.

Genetics certainly play a role in our risk of developing skin cancer. However, several other factors increase our risk. Ultimately, everyone must try to reduce their risk regardless of their predisposition.

This article explains some of the risk factors for developing skin cancer. More importantly, it discusses the preventative steps you can take, such as visiting a dermatologist for an examination to reduce your risk!

What Is Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is an extremely common skin disease that affects 40–50% of Americans at some point in their lives before 65. Several types of skin cancer are broken up into 2 categories: melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers. 

Non-melanoma is the least dangerous skin cancer. However, nearly all forms of skin cancer are treatable as long as they are diagnosed and treated before they have a chance to spread. So, this is one C-word that doesn’t necessarily have to strike fear into your heart. All you have to do is take proper prevention steps and pay attention to changes in your skin.

Types of Skin Cancer

There are three primary types of skin cancer that a person can develop:

  • Basal Cell Carcinoma: A non-healing pink or red bump is a primary characteristic of this common skin cancer. They are commonly found on sun-exposed areas of the face or neck. 
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma: This is another common type of skin cancer that often starts as a crusty or scaly patch on your skin. It can be pretty aggressive and spread to other areas of your body.
  • Melanoma: Unlike the other two skin cancers, melanoma can develop anywhere on your body regardless of sun exposure. Melanoma is also a skin cancer that can become deadly if not treated, so it’s important to see your doctor if you notice any unusual or painful changes in your skin.

Is Skin Cancer Hereditary

We know how common of a condition skin cancer is, so it stands to reason that it has a genetic component. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the evidence suggests melanoma can indeed be hereditary. Approximately 1 in 10 people diagnosed with this skin cancer has a relative with a history of it.

This tells us that someone with close family members, such as a sibling or parent who has dealt with melanoma, will be at a higher risk of developing it themselves. Researchers have actually traced part of these increased risk factors back to several tumor suppressor genes: CDKN2A, BAP1, and MC1R.

A woman at the beach with sunscreen in the shape of a sun on her back to protect her skin from UV rays and help prevent skin cancer

Increased Risk Factors for Skin Cancer

In addition to the hereditary or genetic component to increased risk, several other factors put an individual at an increased risk for developing some form of skin cancer.

These increased risk factors include:

  • Excessive (and unprotected) UV exposure
  • Weak immune system
  • Excessive moles: Moles themselves aren’t necessarily dangerous, but having atypical moles or if they are larger than a pencil eraser puts you at a higher risk for developing melanoma.
  • Previous development of skin cancer
  • Having fair skin, red or light hair, or light eyes 

Preventing Skin Cancer

UV radiation is the leading cause of all skin cancers, so one of the best ways to prevent the disease is by protecting yourself from these rays. Many assume that the sun is the only thing that produces these harmful rays. However, indoor artificial tanning lights also emit harmful radiation.

Some tips for protecting yourself from UV rays are:

  • Always wear a suitable broad spectrum sunscreen that protects from UVA and UVB rays. Minimum SPF of 15 for daily wear and an SPF of 30 for extended outdoor activities.
  • Use shade when possible, especially during the midday sun from around 10 AM to 4 PM.
  • Avoid tanning (especially artificial tanning beds)
  • Stay covered with as much clothing as possible, even better if the clothing is designed with UV protection. Wearing a hat is a big factor in protecting yourself with clothing.
  • Wear sunglasses with a UV protection coating.
  • Keep newborn babies out of the sun.
  • Avoid getting a sunburn through the above measures.
  • Check your body once a month for unusual growths and see your dermatologist annually for a skin examination.

Find Out More

Fortunately, most forms of skin cancer are easily treatable. The sooner a doctor diagnoses skin cancer, the better the chances are of successful treatment.

Contact our office today if you’ve found any unusual growths on your skin or you’re looking for a professional examination. Dr. Joshua Newman and Shannon Bednarz, PA-C of  Amara Aesthetic Surgery & Dermatology are happy to answer your questions. Call us today to book an appointment with our dermatologist.

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