Spending time in the sun without protection increases the risk of melanoma, but the potentially deadly skin cancer can occur even on sites with minimal sun exposure, doctors warn.
Melanoma accounts for only about 1% of skin cancers but causes the majority of skin cancer deaths.
Writing in the medical journal CMAJ, two dermatology experts highlight important things to know about the most dangerous form of skin cancer.
“Melanomas can occur anywhere on the body, not only in areas that get a lot of sun,” Dr. Kucy Pon told Reuters Health by email. She said the most common site in men is the back, while for women it is the leg.
More than 90% of melanomas with the most common genetic characteristics are caused by too much ultraviolet radiation, either from the sun or from sun lamps like the kind used at tanning salons, Pon and co-author Robert Micieli say.
But for some melanomas on peripheral body parts like palms and soles, and on mucosal surfaces, sun exposure is not the primary cause, the authors note. In these cases, the cancer’s development may more closely match the chain of events that lead to non-skin-cancers.
Pon said the incidence of melanoma has been rising over the last 30 years, with an estimated 192,300 new cases expected in the U.S. in 2019.
The disease can affect anyone, regardless of skin color, Pon said.
Along with sun exposure, risk factors include advancing age, moles, many atypical looking moles and a family history of melanoma.
“The first sign of a melanoma is an unusual looking mole or freckle, said Pon, a dermatologist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center in Toronto.
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