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Pregnancy-Associated Melanoma Is Linked With Higher Death Rates

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Key Points

  • Women diagnosed with malignant melanoma during their pregnancy or within 1 year of giving birth were 5.1 times as likely to die.
  • They were 6.9 times as likely to experience metastasis, and 9.2 times more likely to have a recurrence.
  • Researchers believe hormones associated with pregnancy may fuel the cancer.

Melanoma is on the rise in women of childbearing age. Those at the greatest risk, according to new Cleveland Clinic research, are women younger than 50 who are pregnant or have recently been pregnant. After adjusting for age, tumor location, and stage, researchers from Cleveland Clinic's Dermatology & Plastic Surgery Institute discovered that women diagnosed with malignant melanoma during their pregnancy or within 1 year of giving birth were 5.1 times as likely to die, 6.9 times as likely to experience metastasis, and 9.2 times more likely to have a recurrence. The researchers believe hormones associated with pregnancy may fuel the cancer. These findings were published by Tellez et al in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

The case-control study used a large clinical database of electronic medical records to collect detailed data of cutaneous melanomas developing in 462 women aged 49 years or younger. All female patients with a biopsy-proven diagnosis of melanoma between 1988 and 2012 were included in the study, while patients with a follow-up of less than 2 years were excluded.

“We saw significant, worse prognoses and outcomes for women with a pregnancy-associated melanoma, compared to a control group of nonpregnant women,” said Brian Gastman, MD, Plastic Surgeon and Director of Melanoma Surgery at Cleveland Clinic. “The rate of metastasis, recurrence and death in our findings were astounding, as the rates were measurably higher in women who were diagnosed with melanoma while pregnant, or within 1 year after delivery.”

According to the authors, women below 50, particularly those who are pregnant and at higher risk of developing melanoma, should be extra-vigilant in monitoring changing skin lesions and maintaining diligent dermatological follow-up.

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.


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