Does Melanoma Run In The Family?

It can.

Personal History

People who have already had a melanoma have an increased risk of developing a new melanoma. People who have had basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma also have an increased risk of developing melanoma. Therefore, anyone who has had a previous skin cancer needs ongoing care to watch for additional skin cancers, especially melanoma. Melanoma survivors have an approximately 9-fold increased risk of developing subsequent melanoma compared with the general population.[1]

Family History

A family history of melanoma means having one or more close blood relatives who have, or have had, melanoma. The closest blood relatives (not relatives by marriage) are parents, siblings, and children and are called first-degree relatives. Aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, and grandparents are second-degree relatives. Around 10% of all people with melanoma have a family history of the disease.

Familial Melanoma

Familial melanoma refers to families in which two or more first-degree relatives have been diagnosed with melanoma. These individuals have a hereditary risk of developing melanoma. But familial melanoma is rare. Only about 1% to 2% of people newly diagnosed have two or more close relatives with melanoma. Most melanoma is not inherited, but is instead termed “sporadic,” meaning that it occurs by chance.

Having multiple first-degree family members with melanoma increases your risk of developing melanoma 30 to 70 times. If there are three melanomas among your first-degree relatives (parents, brothers, sisters, or children) and 2nd degree relatives (grandparents, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews) you are at much greater risk.

Two genes have been primarily linked to familial melanoma: CDKN2A and CDK4. A mutation in CDKN2A and CDK4 gives a person an increased risk of melanoma. A third gene, MC1R, has also recently been found to alter the risk of melanoma.

Those with hereditary risk of melanoma have a significantly increased risk of developing melanoma.

Documenting the health history of family members over several generations can help determine your risk for certain diseases, including melanoma. It is important to record how the individuals are related to you, the type of cancer or disease they have or had, and the age of the individual when cancer was first diagnosed.

Other Hereditary Conditions

Some hereditary conditions can also increase the risk of developing melanoma. These include xeroderma pigmentosum, retinoblastoma, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Werner syndrome, and certain hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndromes. For more information on these conditions, please use these links: