What Causes Melanoma?

Less is known about what, specifically, causes melanoma other than the factors that put individuals at risk. Generally speaking, however, melanoma occurs when something goes wrong with the body’s production of melanocytes, or the cells that produce melanin, which is the pigment that gives skin color. A mishap in skin cell production can lead to the formation of a cancerous melanoma. Whatever causes this cell-production process to go awry is something that is still not known with certainty. However, there are several factors that can damage the DNA of skin cells, which, in turn, can damage the genes that control the production of melanocytes. Some of these DNA-damaging factors believed to be the most possible causes of melanoma include:

  • Ultraviolet (UV) exposure – UV rays may come from the sun or from artificial sources like tanning beds.
  • Radiation exposure – This can include other types of radiation aside from UV, such as X-rays and therapeutic radiation.
  • Immunosuppression – A variety of things, like HIV/AIDS or certain medications provided after organ transplants, can suppress the body’s immune system and contribute to the development of skin cancer.
  • Genetics – DNA is inherited, and some DNA changes that increase the risk of developing melanoma can be passed from generation to generation.

As the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in Florida, Moffitt is taking great strides in the research of melanoma causes and advanced treatment at our Melanoma Research Center of Excellence.

Contact Moffitt today by calling 1-888-MOFFITT or by filling out our online new patient registration form if you’d like to learn more about what causes melanoma or to schedule an appointment. No referral is necessary to consult with our skin cancer specialists.