Melanoma is on the rise in the U.S., especially for women under 30, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. (We were shocked too.)
"That sounds scary — and it is," says Elizabeth Hale, MD, clinical associate professor of dermatology at NYU Langone Medical Center. "However, the more information you have about melanoma, the more you can do to prevent it or catch it early, when it's most treatable."
If you answer yes to any of the questions below, stay on top of your skin checks, both self-exams and visits to your derm.
"Also, wear sunscreen daily — and make sure you apply enough and reapply. That goes a long way toward reducing your risk of developing the disease," Hale adds.
1. Have you used a tanning bed?
Hopping into one just once, even way back in your teens, gives you a 20 percent increased chance of melanoma. The odds are even greater if indoor tanning was ever a regular thing for you. (A single indoor tanning session increases your risk of SCC and BCC, too.)
2. Have you had five or more sunscreens?
This can double your risk of melanoma. However, it's no reason to throw up your hands and not use SPF now, says Hale. "Keep it up even if you have a history of bad burns."
3. Have you had an abnormal mole removed?
If you've had one taken off and biopsied and it was an "atypical mole," you could be more likely to develop melanoma later on in life, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
4. Do you get intense bouts of sun exposure?
Are you a weekend beach warrior come summer? This kind of brief, potent UV exposure without adequate protection is a lot worse than if you're in the sun steadily year-round, says Hale.
"We know that cumulative, chronic sun exposure is more likely to lead to BCC or SCC, but short blasts of it are more likely to lead to melanoma — even if your skin doesn't tend to burn," Hale adds.
5. Does melanoma run in your family?
Just like with most cancers, there's sometimes a genetic component to melanoma, says Hale. If a first-degree relative (a parent, sibling, or child) has had the disease, schedule skin exams with your derm every six months.
This story originally appeared in the May 2016 issue of Dr. Oz The Good Life.
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