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What You Should Know About Your Family’s History of Skin Cancer

August 24, 2018

Do you know your family’s history of skin cancer? If one or more of your parents, siblings, or children develop skin cancer, you have a higher risk of developing skin cancer than a person with no family history of the disease. In fact, according to Sun & Skin News, a Skin Cancer Foundation publication, about one in every 10 patients diagnosed with skin cancer has a family member with a history of the disease. Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Ramzi Saad says, “when gathering family history, the more information, the better.” He goes on to suggest that, while discussing your family’s history of skin cancer is important, it is also good to disclose a history of any cancer, as there are some genetic connections between skin cancer and other cancers.

While gathering accurate information about multiple family members can be a little intimidating, there are some key points to highlight when digging through your family’s history. The number of relatives that have had skin cancer, particularly parents or siblings, is a definite need-to-know. Each person with an immediate relative diagnosed with skin cancer has a 50 percent greater chance of developing the disease than people who do not have a family history of the disease. Again, the more complete the history, the better, but the number of immediate relatives with the disease is the most important predictive factor for an increased risk of skin cancer.

However, experts aren’t sure whether the increased risk is because close relatives tend to have similar, sun-drenched lifestyles or if a genetic mutation is responsible. Regardless of why a family history of skin cancer raises the risk of developing the disease, knowing that there’s a link means you should take precautions. That can include reducing the skin cancer risk factors you can control and paying close attention to changes in your skin.

Unfortunately, everyone is at risk for skin cancer, regardless of family history. However, some people with a family history of the disease never get it, and some people with no family history will get it. Fortunately, there are concrete steps you can take to reduce your skin cancer risks, including:

  • Applying sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher liberally 15-30 minutes before any sun exposure and reapplying every 2 hours throughout the day, after toweling, becoming sweaty or getting wet.
  • Checking the expiration date of your sunscreen – do not use it if it’s expired.
  • Following directions for sunscreen application on babies less than 6 months old.
  • Limiting your time outdoors when the sun’s rays are strongest (between 10 am and 4 pm).
  • Wearing protective clothing, hats, and sunglasses so sunlight can’t reach your skin.
  • Avoiding tanning beds.

In advance of your next skin check, try gathering some information on your family’s history of skin cancer. Knowing your risk can help you better protect yourself from skin cancer. For more information and educational resources, visit Sensus Healthcare.