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Causes of melanoma

Repetitive scorching burning by sunshine/ultraviolet light particularly when suffered by fair skinned individuals in youth, is a predisposing factor for the development of melanoma. This explains why the disease is more common in Caucasian races living nearer the equator, and the lower incidences in black races. There are some data that suggest that ultraviolet dependent melanoma has a slightly better prognosis than other types. Studies from Western Canada and other regions of the world strongly suggest that intermittent burning exposure of unacclimatised Caucasian skin is a major risk factor for the development of melanoma.


Other predisposing factors are the dysplastic naevus syndrome, a familial condition of multiple congenital dysplastic naevi (‘moles’) and the cancer predisposition syndrome, the Li Fraumeni syndrome, which runs heavily in families and runs to multiple other primary cancers. There are three genes currently identified which influence melanoma risk. The majority of cases arise in patients with no obvious predisposing cause.

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