SkinCancerNet Spotlight Article
Survivors Have Increased Melanoma Risk
If you’ve ever had melanoma, you may
want to get skin cancer checkups for life. A recent study of 89,515
melanoma survivors found that the risk of developing another
melanoma remains high for years. More than 20 years after the first
diagnosis, survivors still had an increased risk.
A similar study, which looked at 151,996 melanoma survivors, drew
the same conclusion. The risk of developing another melanoma remains
high for years.
Some Survivors Have Greater Melanoma Risk
In one study, researchers found that when the first melanoma
appeared on the patient’s head or neck, the patient had a greater
risk for developing another melanoma. Women were more likely than
men to develop another melanoma. But when men had a head or neck
melanoma and developed melanoma again, multiple melanomas were more
likely to appear.
Most melanomas that develop on the head or neck are a type of
melanoma called “lentigo maligna melanoma.” This type of melanoma
usually develops in people who are middle-aged or older, have fair
skin, and have had years of sun exposure. This melanoma may be
mistaken in its early, and most treatable, stages for an age spot.
Melanoma Survivors Develop Thinner Melanomas
While these research findings may leave you feeling discouraged,
there is good news. The researchers found that when a survivor
developed a new melanoma, the melanoma was thinner. When it comes to
melanoma, thinner is better. Thin melanomas are early melanomas. In
its earliest stages, melanoma has a high cure rate. The average
5-year survival rate is 99% when melanoma is detected and treated
before it spreads to the lymph nodes.
What Melanoma Survivors Can Do
Because early detection and prevention are so important, you may
want to adopt these practices:
Keep all appointments with your
dermatologist. You may want to get skin cancer checkups for
Learn how to perform skin
self-exams and perform them as often as your dermatologist
recommends. The earlier melanoma or another type of skin
cancer is detected and treated, the higher the cure rate.
Ask your dermatologist if you
should have any other cancer screenings. These studies also
found that melanoma survivors may have an increased risk of
developing some other types of cancers. But here the studies
differ greatly. Each study found increased risks for different
types of cancer. More research is needed to determine which
types of cancer, if any, melanoma survivors may have an
increased risk of developing.
Follow up after having any
medical test. After having any medical test, including the
removal of a suspicious mole, ask when you can expect to get the
results. If you have not received the results by that date,
follow up. Don’t assume that no news is good news.
Protect your skin from
ultraviolet (UV) rays. The sun, tanning beds, and sun lamps
all emit harmful UV rays. You can protect your skin by not using
a tanning bed or sunlamp. Sun protection also is important.
Every day before going outdoors, be sure to protect your skin
with either protective clothing or sunscreen.
Protective clothing has a tight weave. When this type of
clothing is held up to bright light, you will not be able to see
light shining through it.
The type of sunscreen you use also is important. The sunscreen
should be broad-spectrum (protects against UVA and UBV rays),
water-resistant, and have an SPF of at least 30.
Body Mole Map
On one page, you’ll find instructions for performing a skin
self-exam, the ABCDEs of Melanoma Detection, and a place to draw
what your moles look like.
Four Types of Melanoma
This page includes information about lentigo maligna melanoma and
photos to show what this type of melanoma looks like.
Bradford PT, Freedman DM, Goldstein AM et al. “Increased
risk of second primary cancers after a diagnosis of melanoma.”
Archives of Dermatology, March 2010; 146: 265-72.
Casalino LP, Dunham D, Chin MH et al. “Frequency of failure
to inform patients of clinically significant outpatient test
results.” Archives of Internal Medicine, June 2009; 169:
Spanogle JP, Clarke CA, Aroner S et al. “Risk of second
primary malignancies following cutaneous melanoma diagnosis: a
population-based study.” Journal of the American Academy of
Dermatology, May 2010; 62: 757-67.
content solely developed by the American Academy of Dermatology
With early detection, even
melanoma has a high cure rate.