Do I Need Genetic Counseling and Testing for Melanoma?



The majority of melanomas are likely a combination of environmental and sporadic factors. However, approximately 10% of all melanomas are inherited.

Could the Melanoma in My Family Be Hereditary?

These factors increase the likelihood that melanoma is hereditary:

  • Some family members have had two or more primary (distinct) melanomas.
  • There are ≥ 2 family members on the same side of the family who have had melanoma.
  • There is a combination of melanoma + pancreatic cancer on the same side of your family.
  • You are of Jewish ancestry and there is a combination of melanoma, breast ovarian and/or pancreatic cancer on the same side of your family.

Why Would I Want to Know if there is a Genetic Mutation in My Family?

Not everyone does want to know if they carry a genetic mutation that places them at increased risk to develop melanoma. For those who do, this information could provide information about their risks to develop additional melanomas and related cancers and could be used to shape a personalized surveillance and cancer risk reduction program for them and other family members.

What Does Genetic Testing Entail?

Genetic testing involves taking a small blood or saliva sample. The DNA in that sample is sent off to look for mutations within several genes that are involved in melanoma development. It is wise to meet with a certified genetic counselor before and after genetic testing to increase the chance that:

  • Your insurance will cover testing,
  • The correct test is ordered,
  • Your result is interpreted accurately,
  • You are given tailored medical management options based on your personal/family history and your genetic results.

The genetic counselor will also discuss the pros and cons of genetic testing to better enable you to make a clear and informed decision.

How Can I Find a Certified Genetic Counselor?

National Society of Genetic Counselors‘ website, FindAGeneticCounselor.com and search for experts in cancer. (312) 321-6834

Informed Medical Decisions Phone counseling by certified genetic counselors that is covered by many insurance companies. (800) 975-4819

Photo by Jaume Escofet, via Flickr