Melanoma Risk Factors and Early Detection

Risk Factors

Certain individuals are at higher risk for melanoma. Risk factors for melanoma include:

  • Fitzpatrick skin type I, II
  • Indoor tanning (4x the risk)
  • Blistering sunburns (2x the risk)
  • Family history of melanoma
  • Personal history of non-melanotic skin cancers

However, not all melanomas are at high risk. Here are some additional, more specific, risk factors for melanoma:

  • Prior invasive melanoma
  • Nodular melanoma
  • Dysplastic Nevus Syndrome
  • Over 50 moles
  • Familial melanoma
  • CDKN2A or CDK4 mutations
  • Melanocortin 1 Receptor Genotype
  • Immunosuppression
  • Childhood cancer survivors (previous treatment with XRT)
  • Parkinson’s Disease

Early Detection

For individuals concerned about skin cancer, Hoag advises you following your sun safety trips throughout the year in sunny Southern California, including: avoiding the sun during the middle of the day, wear sunscreen year-round, wear protective clothing, avoid tanning beds and check your skin regularly and report changes to your dermatologist.

The simplest step is to visit your dermatologist for a skin check-up. During this screening, a dermatologist can determine if there are any areas of concern and inquire with you if you’ve noticed changes in your skin or moles, and if it may be causing an kind of symptoms such as pain, itching or bleeding. During this physical exam, your dermatologist will also note the size, shape, texture and color of the area in question, and feel your lymph nodes under the neck, underarm or groin area. When melanoma spreads, it often travels to nearby lymph nodes first.

Hoag encourages you to stay aware of your skin, and any changes that may occur. Hoag recommends you receive a skin examination by a dermatologist once a year, or every six months if an individual has a family history.

​Melanoma Early Detection


Focus cared for individuals with a past history of melanoma, or with risk factors for melanoma, is the mission of Hoag’s High Risk Clinic, part of the Hoag Melanoma/Advanced Skin Cancer Program. In addition to genomic screening for patients and family members, Hoag has recently purchased a FotoFinder unit – an advanced imaging system that scans the entire skin surface for areas that could potentially develop into melanoma. This early detection tool has been made possible by a generous donation from Circle 1000, a Hoag Hospital Foundation support group benefiting Hoag Family Cancer Institute. Until now, Hoag’s dermatologists have relied solely on the naked eye to identify suspicious lesions. With FotoFinder, individuals at high risk for melanoma can receive additional attention and surveillance through this high-resolution mapping. Those images are stored, and then compared to the images taken following each visit, to evaluate if new lesions have appeared or changed.

The High Risk Clinic, which includes the use of the FotoFinder, is appropriate for high risk melanoma/advanced skin cancer patients, and is accessed by physician referral only. Please speak with your dermatologist to see if this is right for you.

To contact Hoag’s Melanoma/Advanced Skin Cancer Program, please call 877-494-3484.​