Soaring Melanoma Risks for Some

Melanoma risks higher in lymphoma patients and organ recipients

(RxWiki News) Melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer – is increasing in this country for a number of reasons, including tanning beds. Some cancer patients are especially at risk and need to be especially vigilant of their skin.

People who have lymphoma (cancer of the lymph system) or have undergone an organ transplant have 2.5 times higher odds of developing melanoma than the average person. The reason is their weakened immune system.

So watching for skin and mole changes, wearing sunscreen every day and seeing a dermatologist regularly is important for these folks.

"Visit a dermatologist at least once a year."

Jerry Brewer, MD, a dermatologist at the Mayo Clinic, said, "How you catch melanoma earlier is to be very aware of your skin.”

Dr. Brewer is the co-author of a recent review of melanoma.

"These patients with immunosuppression should be looking themselves over head-to-toe once a month, they should be seeing a dermatologist once or twice a year, and if they have a lot of other risk factors, maybe more often than that,” Dr. Brewer said in a press release.

He explains that melanoma affects roughly 1 in 50 people in the general population. It’s diagnosed in just over 76,000 Americans every year.

Not only do lymphoma patients and organ recipients have greater odds of developing melanoma, they are also more likely to die of the disease.

For patients who have a particular type of lymphoma called chronic lymphocytic leukemia, the odds of developing a fatal form of melanoma that spreads (metastatic) are 2.8 times greater than the general population.

The key message, according to Dr. Brewer, is that melanoma needs to be caught as early as possible in this group.

Signs of melanoma include changes in the appearance of moles or new, unusual growths. Every part of the body is vulnerable to this type of skin cancer.

Dr. Brewer suggests that people in these groups avoid the sun as much as possible and stay away from tanning beds.

In terms of sunscreen, Dr. Brewer says it should be applied not only everyday, but "almost as often as you brush your teeth.”

This review was published in the October issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Dr. Brewer is the recipient of the Dermatology Foundation Career Development Award for the study of lymphoma-associated skin cancer, which provided the funding for this study.

Review Date: 
October 4, 2012