Skin Cancer…is it in your family?

May is Skin Cancer Awareness month. Prevention is key!

May is Skin Cancer Awareness month. Prevention is key!

What role does my family history play in my diagnosis of Skin Cancer? 

This is a question my patients ask me all of the time. We all want to know if our family genetics puts us at a higher risk of cancer. I often tell my patients that the two most common skin cancers, basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), are the result of “a lifetime’s worth of sun.” Numerous studies have shown UV rays from the sun are the primary cause of nearly all skin cancers. What about the role of family history? If your parents had skin cancer, are you at higher risk?

Researchers at University of California San Francisco, Kaiser Permanente Northern California, and Stanford University aimed to answer this question. With a grant from the National Cancer Institute of Arthritis and Skin Diseases they aimed to determine if family history of skin cancer leads to an increased risk of SCC, the second most common skin cancer worldwide. Their research was recently published Dermatologic Surgery, the premiere scientific journal of both the American College of Mohs Surgery and the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery.

Their results showed a strong correlation between family history of Always together- Family holding hands at the beachany skin cancer and increased risk of SCC. According to their findings, if one of your parents had skin cancer, of any type, your risk of developing SCC is four times higher! The increased risk is independent of other risk factors for SCC, such as sun exposure or smoking. This study is an important reminder that if you have a family history of skin cancer you should have regular skin checks with a board certified dermatologist. Skin cancer can be prevented and, when caught early, easily treated. If you have a family history of skin cancer, please get an annual skin check with a board certified dermatologist. A simple office visit could save your life.