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Can My Genetics Elevate My Skin Cancer Risk?

Can My Genetics Elevate My Skin Cancer Risk?

Family history is a common risk factor for many types of cancer, including skin cancer. While your genetics may elevate your risk of skin cancer, overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) light is a more concerning risk factor. 

Since May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, our board-certified dermatologists at Associated Skin Care Specialists want to talk about what we know about genetics and skin cancer and what you can do to protect yourself.  

Genes and skin cancer

Researchers have identified specific genetic variations and genetic syndromes linked to skin cancer. The following are some of the syndromes and genes associated with the three most common types of cancer: basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma.

BCC

Basal cell nevus syndrome, also called Gorlin syndrome, is an inherited disorder that affects multiple body systems, including the skin, eyes, and nervous system, and increases risk of BCC. 

People with this syndrome need regular skin checks to monitor for skin cancer lesions. 

SCC

A few genetic syndromes increase a person’s risk of developing SCC, including oculocutaneous albinism (lack of melanin in the skin, eyes, and hair), epidermolysis bullosa (fragile skin prone to blistering), and Fanconi anemia (low production of all blood cells). All of these conditions are rare and diagnosed during childhood. 

Melanoma

Researchers have found that people with a genetic mutation of a tumor-suppressing gene — CDKN2A — are at greater risk of melanoma, the most aggressive and life-threatening form of skin cancer. 

People with this genetic mutation are also at greater risk of developing other types of cancer, including SCC, breast cancer, and pancreatic cancer.

Family history: what to do

Your family history and genetics influence your risk of skin cancer. However, most people develop skin cancers, even melanoma, because of other causes. Anyone can develop skin cancer, regardless of family history. 

The most common cause linked to skin cancer is overexposure to UV light from the sun or tanning lamps. UV light damages the DNA that makes skin cells, causing a mutation and an overgrowth of abnormal cells.

Your inherited physical traits may also play a more significant role in your risk of skin cancer than the genetic mutations linked to it. People with blue or green eyes and those with naturally blonde or red hair have a higher risk of skin cancer. 

Preventing skin cancer

Whether skin cancer runs in your family or not, the best way to prevent skin cancer is the same: Protect your skin from UV light. This means wearing sunscreen daily, staying out of the sun during peak hours, and skipping indoor tanning.

A tan is not a sign of good health. Your skin color changes when exposed to the sun or a tanning lamp to protect you. Any change in skin color — tan or red — after exposure to UV light is a sign of skin damage. 

If you have a family history of skin cancer, you want to take extra precautions. We also recommend doing monthly self-skin exams and scheduling a visit with us so we can do a thorough skin cancer check. 

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. If you have concerns about your skin or skin cancer, schedule an appointment with one of our medical dermatologists today by calling the office nearest you. We provide personalized and comprehensive skin cancer care at our offices in Blaine, Maple Grove, Coon Rapids, Eden Prairie, New Brighton, and Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Additionally, we provide telemedicine appointments for your convenience.

We also have an office in Fridley, Minnesota, where we do dermatology research and lab work.

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