In school, you probably learned that your skin, or dermis, is the largest organ in the human body. It accounts for 15% of your body weight, and the average person has about 300 million skin cells. Fluctuations in your skin’s color or texture can sometimes signal changes inside the body. These changes don’t always require the need to worry, but in the U.S., more than 9,500 people receive a skin cancer diagnosis every hour. In that hour, more than two people die of the disease. Melanoma represents only 1% of skin cancer, but it’s responsible for the vast majority of skin cancer deaths. Your skin is yours to protect. By taking a cancer genomic (CGX) screening test, you could be saving your own life.

Melanoma is only one type of skin cancer. It’s also the rarest kind and the most aggressive. All types of skin cancer can develop anywhere in the body, but melanoma is most likely to develop in skin that you expose to sunlight. If you’ve had five or more sunburns in your lifetime, your risk of developing melanoma can double. Melanoma begins in cells known as melanocytes, and while the disease is less common than basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma, it is far more dangerous. That is because it can spread to other organs when not detected at an early stage. However, when caught early enough, the disease is usually curable, and the 5-year survival rate for melanoma is 99%.

Don’t frighten yourself if you notice something out of the ordinary on your skin. That freckle you didn’t suspect before might not be cancerous, but it doesn’t hurt to start a conversation with your physician or a dermatologist to discuss prevention. But before you do, you should be as informed as possible when making decisions regarding your health. Cancer genomic (CGX) screening, can identify specific, inherited gene mutations that may predispose you or your relatives to melanoma. A positive test result won’t mean you have cancer, but it can guide management, and treatment which can ultimately increase the rate of interception and survival.

The skin consists of five layers

Is Melanoma Genetic?

40-50% of Americans who live to the age of 65 will have some form of skin cancer at least once. Although the primary cause of melanoma is sun exposure, genes also play a critical role. Regardless of how you spend your time in the sun, when you overexpose your skin to long-wave ultraviolet radiation, the rays ignite changes in your pigment cell genes, also known as melanocytes. When mutations in your melanocytes occur, they can self-destruct, rapidly divide out of control, or invade surrounding tissue – resulting in primary or secondary melanoma. 

Genes can also make you more susceptible to developing familial melanoma – an inherited condition that is passed on through generations. Mutations in specific genes such as CDKN2A, CDK4, P53, and MITF, link to melanoma, but variations in these genes are rare. Very few families pass on these genetic mutations, but it’s best to be aware of your family history so that you can take proper steps toward prevention. You should know that about 10% of individuals with melanoma have a family history of the illness. However, if a close relative (parent, sibling, kid) has a diagnosis, your risk is two to three times greater.

If you notice any unusual moles and are worried about being prone to melanoma, taking a cancer genomic (CGX) test can identify genetic alterations that may increase your risk of developing the disease. It cannot tell you if you have cancer or will develop melanoma, but CGX screening improves the accuracy of diagnosing life-threatening skin cancer. It also examines your unique genetic profile to determine if you would respond better to targeted therapy, a form of personalized medicine that can make treatment as individualized as melanoma itself. 

CGX Screening for Melanoma Prevention

Your skin is the largest organ, and therefore, it’s the most vulnerable to sun damage. You may not be able to avoid the sun entirely, but there are efficient approaches you can take to reduce your exposure and potentially decrease your risk of developing a severe case of skin cancer. In addition to protecting your skin from environmental factors and excessive sunlight, consider taking a cancer genomic (CGX) test to gain a better knowledge of your genetics. Knowing if you are predisposed to melanoma, can help prevent it, or lead to early identification when it is easier to treat and heal.

Choosing to undergo cancer genomic (CGX) screening is a decision only you can make. A positive result may cause you to feel anxious or worried, but it does not necessarily mean you have cancer. It might only mean that you have a mutation in your melanocytes, and you require extra monitoring by a dermatologist to reduce your risk. Since the number of melanoma diagnoses is higher than ever before, you may want to talk with your dermatologist or a genetic counselor about your family history and concerns. They can discuss the benefits and decide if cancer genomic (CGX) testing is right for you. 

A genetic counselor can help interpret your testing results

CGX Screening and Genetic Counseling

Whether you’re aware or unaware of your melanoma risk, it’s critical to be as informed as possible when deciding to undergo (CGX) screening. Genetic counseling with and without test reporting has led to significant reductions in ultraviolet radiation (UVR) exposure. Studies prove that those who learn they are carriers of the CDKN2A mutation are more likely to act upon taking proper steps toward prevention a month following a genetic counseling appointment. 

Individuals who have abnormally frequent cases of basal cell carcinoma, appear to be at a dangerous chance of developing other cancers, such as blood, breast, colon, and prostate. When genetic counseling and genetic testing pair together, having a better knowledge of your genes can improve your overall health, and promote changes in behavior, rather than leading to debilitating responses. Screening for cancer can increase rates of survival, so we no longer have to witness our loved ones succumbing to the disease. 

To conclude, (CGX) screening can protect you from skin cancer starting from the inside out. You are only born with one skin, and it’s up to you to keep it healthy. If you receive a diagnosis of melanoma, or if a family history of disease reveals itself through testing, understanding your genetics can help you make more informed treatment decisions. It can also provide insight into how particular predispositions may play a role within your family.