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What is Familial Atypical Mole and Melanoma (FAM-M) Syndrome?

What is Familial Atypical Mole and Melanoma (FAM-M) Syndrome?

By Kate Le Page
Skin cancer may run in families and high-risk individuals with FAM-M syndrome require regular check-ups such as skin exams.

Although skin cancer is not a disease one can catch such as influenza or the common cold, it does have a genetic element. Therefore, individuals who have a family history of melanoma may be at an increased risk of developing the same condition.

Familial Atypical Mole and Melanoma Syndrome

Originally known as dysplastic nevus syndrome, familial atypical mole and melanoma syndrome (FAM-M) relates to melanoma which runs in families. The cause of FAM-M syndrome is believed to result from a genetic mutation associated with chromosome nine. Family members who suffer from this syndrome are identified as being prone to developing abnormal moles which have a high risk of turning malignant with the genetic abnormality or mutation being commonly passed on from parents to children.

Regardless of whether FAM-M syndrome affects one's family or not, if a family member or close relative is diagnosed with melanoma it is absolutely crucial to have a full medical examination to determine possible risks of developing the disease. FAM-M syndrome is defined as melanoma occurrence in a minimum of one first/second-degree relative, having more than 50 moles with some being identified as atypical and having moles exhibiting very specific patterns.

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In Saving Your Skin, Dr Kenet (1994) highlights the following recommendations for those suffering from atypical moles associated with FAM-M syndrome:

* Write a detailed family history of unusual moles, melanomas and other cancers
* Recommend close relatives get examined for signs of melanoma
* Attend regular skin exams as and when suggested
* Complete monthly self-examinations of skin
* Decrease sun exposure and educate family members of risks
* Check if one's doctor recommends full-body scans
* Seek medical advice upon finding skin abnormalities
* Discuss eye examinations with a doctor
* Be aware of signs but avoid excessive worry

Whilst it is important for those at higher risk of suffering from melanomas to attend regular check-ups and be mindful of any changes to skin such as moles changing shape, size or colour, it is also a sensible approach for all people to adopt. However, it is equally important not to be excessively worried as stress is recognised to lower one's immune system and if one is carrying out self-examinations regularly then should anything be wrong it may be picked up very early and treated much more simply and effectively.

As highlighted above, those identified as suffering from FAM-M syndrome require regular skin examinations as they are more at risk of developing skin cancer. The key is to identify any unusual moles or changes in skin early on and seek medical advice thus resulting in early treatment which is linked to effective outcomes.

Sources:

Kenet, B. & Lawler, P. (1994) Saving Your Skin London: Four Walls Eight Windows

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