Charleston Dermatology Blog

Genetics and Skin Cancer: How Your Family History Affects Your Risk

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  • skincare-tips

Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer globally, with one in five Americans likely to be diagnosed by age 70. While sun exposure and environmental factors play significant roles in skin cancer development, research suggests that genetics also contribute to an individual’s risk. Our team of board-certified dermatologists is committed to providing comprehensive insights into skin cancer prevention and risk reduction strategies. 

The Role of Genetics in Skin Cancer

While the majority of skin cancer cases are attributed to UV radiation exposure from the sun or indoor tanning, genetic factors also play a role in determining an individual’s susceptibility to skin cancer. 

Certain genetic mutations and inherited conditions can increase the risk of developing skin cancer, including:

  • Familial Melanoma: Approximately 10% of melanoma cases are believed to have a genetic component, with mutations in genes associated with familial melanoma syndromes.
  • Xeroderma Pigmentosum (XP): XP is a rare genetic disorder characterized by impaired DNA repair mechanisms, leading to extreme sensitivity to UV radiation and a significantly increased risk of skin cancer.
  • Basal Cell Nevus Syndrome (BCNS): Also known as Gorlin syndrome, BCNS is an inherited condition characterized by the development of multiple basal cell carcinomas (BCCs) at an early age, often accompanied by other physical abnormalities.
  • Atypical Moles: Individuals with a large number of atypical moles are at increased risk of developing melanoma. Genetics may play a role in determining susceptibility to dysplastic nevi formation.

While these factors contribute to one’s predisposition to skin cancer, genetics are only one piece of the puzzle. Environmental factors, lifestyle choices and sun protection also play crucial roles in skin cancer prevention.

Uncovering Your Family History

If you do have a family history of skin cancer, it’s essential to gather the right information to assess your risk and take proactive measures. Ask the following questions to help set yourself and your dermatologist up for success :

  1. Are there any known cases of skin cancer in my immediate family (parents, siblings)?
  2. What types of skin cancer were diagnosed in my relatives (melanoma, BCC, SCC)?
  3. At what age were the diagnoses made, and were there any recurring or metastatic cases?
  4. Did any family members undergo genetic testing for inherited skin cancer syndromes?
  5. Are there any other relevant medical conditions or environmental factors that may have contributed to the development of skin cancer in my family?

The answers to these questions will provide insight into your genetic risk of skin cancer and equip your provider with an understanding of how to best meet your needs. Together, you can create a custom skin care plan that promotes overall health and protects you for the future!

Create a Skincare Plan That Meets Your Needs

At Charleston Dermatology, our board-certified dermatologists help you unlock your skin’s potential. As a Lowcountry leader in skin care, our trusted team has an established legacy in providing unmatched, personalized care to patients across South Carolina. Contact us today to book your appointment and learn more about our medical, surgical and cosmetic dermatology services!

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