Melanoma is a cancer that affects certain types of skin cells. While many experts target outdoor enthusiasts when it comes to taking precautions against this type of cancer, a recent study shows vulnerability in a new group: pregnant women. The study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology revealed some shocking results when it came to pregnant women and skin cancer, specifically melanoma.
Researchers studied 462 women with melanoma who were 49 years of age or younger. Within the larger group were 41 women who had been diagnosed with the skin cancer while pregnant or within one year of giving birth.
Researchers found that women diagnosed with melanoma while pregnant or recently pregnant were five times more likely to die from it than women with melanoma who were not pregnant. Melanoma diagnosed in pregnant or recently pregnant woman was nearly seven times more likely to metastasize (spread to other parts of the body), and women in this group were nearly ten times more likely to experience a recurrence of the cancer within 7 ½ years.
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The study's results do not indicate that pregnant or recently pregnant women are more likely to develop melanoma, yet they do show melanoma is more aggressive in this group of women. While they have not determined a cause for the increased virulence, the researchers do venture a few possibilities. It may be related to a diminished immune system that helps prevent rejection of the fetus or it could be caused by hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy like a rise in estrogen levels.
Research shows that when it comes to skin cancer, women from 20 to 40 years of age are experiencing rising rates. Females in this age group who have a history of heavy sun exposure, family members with skin cancer, or a large number of moles should examine their skin on a regular basis and contact a dermatologist with any concerns. Women with high risks for skin cancer may also want to consult with a dermatologist before planning a family.
In addition to regular self-examination, most experts recommend the following tips for preventing melanoma and other types of skin cancer: