A new study finds a possible link between the deadly skin cancer and a specific gene variation that puts pre-menopausal women at higher risk.
Researchers at New York University say the study shows when the gene variation is present and binds to estrogen, women under 50 are four times more prone to have melanoma.
"We think that the reason we saw this in women under 50 is that because this variant is known to interact with estrogen in a sense, that estrogen activates this gene," explained Dr. David Polsky.
It is the first time researchers have linked the gene variation to the common form of skin cancer that kills an estimated 8,000 Americans each year.
Researchers say it could eventually provide doctors and patients with earlier detection than the more tell-tale signs of freckles, blisters and sun damage history.
"Down the road it could mean that we would have a test that we could offer to patients," said Dr. Polsky.
Other cancer and skin specialists say the findings are important, but not definitive enough for people to stop self-checks.
"Certainly still screening themselves and knowing the risks of melanoma are the risks are clinically the most important thing," noted dermatologist Dr. Michel Alice McDonald.
Researchers say when estrogen levels drop, usually in women over 50, the increased risk also begins to go down in people who have this recurring gene.
The study was released online Tuesday and will be published in the journal "Clinical Cancer Research" in April.
Men do not have a free pass when it comes to being diligent.
A man's risk for melanoma increases significantly after the age of 50.
Dermatologists say both men and women need to use sunscreen daily, and learn about their medical risks before exposing themselves to the sun.