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Breast cancer patients at higher risk for melanoma



Breast cancer patients and survivors have an increased risk of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Research has shown genetics may play a role for women carrying a specific breast cancer susceptibility gene; the presence of abnormalities in the gene doubles the risk of melanoma.

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends the following skin cancer prevention tips for breast cancer patients and survivors:

Beware of photosensitivity. Photosensitivity is an increased sensitivity or abnormal response of the skin to sunlight or artificial ultraviolet (UV) light; it can be caused by certain medical conditions and treatments. People with photosensitivity are at increased risk of developing skin cancers, and should be especially careful to seek shade and stay out of direct sunlight; wear sun-protective clothing, including wide-brimmed hats and UV-blocking sunglasses; and apply a broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB protection) sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher.

Be screened. People at high risk of melanoma and other skin cancers should undergo frequent full-body skin screenings by a physician—once a year or more often, as your physician advises.

Perform self-exams. Self-exams are important. Performed regularly (monthly is ideal), self-examination can alert you to changes in the skin and aid in the early detection of skin cancer.

Because skin cancers can vary in appearance, it’s important to be on the lookout for early warning signs. Melanomas, for instance, often resemble moles. Look especially for skin changes of any kind, such as color changes or growth, and do not ignore a suspicious spot simply because it doesn’t hurt. Skin cancers may be painless, but are dangerous all the same. See a physician, preferably one who specializes in diseases of the skin, if you note any change in an existing mole, freckle, or spot or if you find a new mole with any of the warning signs of skin cancer.

For information on performing self-exams and what to look for, visit

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