Does radiation therapy increase the risk of melanoma?

Q. Does radiation therapy increase the risk of melanoma?

Answered by
Dr. Rakesh Kumar Bahunuthula
and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.
This is a premium question & answer published on Nov 09, 2016 and last reviewed on: Jul 05, 2023

Hi doctor,

21 years ago, my friend had radiation therapy for a very small breast cancer. In the recent years, breast areola becomes dry. Biopsies revealed no cancer. She was followed closely by an oncologist and a dermatologist with number of tests. Recently, a mole appeared in the areola region. The dermatologist decided to take a biopsy after three months and the result is inconclusive. Her doctor said that it could be nothing or it could be some cancer named squamous skin cancer. She is afraid of melanoma, but the doctor said melanoma is extremely unlikely. She is very nervous and scared. I could not send pictures because my friend does not want to. What do you think? Please advice.



Welcome to

Post radiation therapy, the skin does suffer a burnt both immediate as well as on a long term. Dryness, itching leading to oozing and crusting are very common complaints after radiotherapy and can start as late as 15 to 20 years too after the treatment. Radiation therapy does not increase the risk of melanoma. There are chances for basal cell carcinoma, which is much easier to treat and not life threatening. Squamous cell cancer also can occur, however, simple eczema needs to be ruled out even before thinking of the same. A negative biopsy is quite sensitive if chosen from the appropriate site. I would advise not to panic for the fear of melanoma and instead keep up with close follow-ups to note the course of the problem.

Differential diagnosis:

1. Nipple eczema, post radiation.

2. Paget's disease (bone remodeling disorder).

3. Simple fungal infection.

Regarding follow up:

For further information consult a dermatologist online.--->

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