If you have red hair, fair skin and especially many moles, you’re at higher risk for melanoma, which has a very poor prognosis if not caught early.

Melanoma begins in pre-existing moles in about 30 percent of cases, and other big risk factors are red hair and fair skin – even if you don’t have many moles to begin with.

Another risk for melanoma that many people don’t consider is intermittent but intense sun exposure.

An example is when people — who normally stay indoors — vacation a few times a year in the tropics and spend a lot of time outside.

People with red hair and the so-called peaches-and-cream complexion need to be especially vigilant when it comes to protecting themselves from melanoma.

Reducing the Risk for Melanoma

“To reduce their risk of melanoma, people with red hair and fair skin should take extra precautions to protect themselves from the sun,” begins Alpana Mohta, MD, DNB, a dual board certified dermatologist who specializes in clinical and aesthetic dermatology.

“This includes using sunscreen with a high SPF rating, wearing protective clothing such as hats and long-sleeved shirts, and avoiding prolonged exposure to the sun, especially during peak hours.

“Additionally, they can also opt to wear clothing labelled as ‘UPF.’

“UPF, or ultraviolet protection factor, is a rating system used to measure the effectiveness of clothing in blocking ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.

“Clothing with a UPF rating is specifically designed to protect the skin from harmful UV rays.

“UPF ratings range from 15 to 50+ and indicate the amount of UV radiation that can penetrate the fabric and reach the skin. 

“In addition to UPF ratings, some clothing may also be labeled as ‘UV protective’ or ‘sun protective’ to indicate that it provides protection from the sun.”

Self-Exams for People with Red Hair, Pale Skin


Dr. Mohta explains, “It’s also important for these individuals to regularly check their skin for any suspicious moles or changes in existing moles, and to see a doctor if they notice anything unusual.”

Skin exams should be done monthly.

  • Check inside the belly button.
  • Check the groin.
  • Check behind the ears and in the folds of the ears.
  • Check between the toes and on the soles of the feet.
  • Check anywhere where there’s skin.

“By taking these steps, people with red hair and fair skin can help reduce their risk of melanoma and protect their skin from the damaging effects of the sun.”

Melanoma Doesn’t Always Look “Ugly”

Don’t wait for a mole to start looking “big and ugly” before you have a dermatologist examine it.

If you notice ANY change, have your dermatologist inspect the mole with a handheld lens called a dermatoscope.

If they recommend a biopsy, you should agree to this.

If they don’t, but your gut tells you otherwise, then you should request a biopsy.

Below are images of “not so ugly” melanoma.



Dr. Alpana Mohta is a dual board certified dermatologist and owner of dralpana.com. Her areas of interest include clinical dermatology, dermatopathology and dermatosurgery. She has over 85 research publications in numerous journals. Apart from her regular medical practice, she is also a medical writer, reviewer and advisor for many companies. 
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.