Researchers caution that pregnancy hormones may fuel melanoma


Women younger than 50 years of age who are pregnant or have recently been pregnant appear to have an increased risk of malignant melanoma, researchers cautioned online in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (Jan. 20, 2016).

During this case-control study the investigators 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 two years were excluded.

The aim of this study was to investigate histopathology, staging, risk factors, and outcomes of cutaneous melanoma in women younger than 50 years, reported researchers from Cleveland Clinic’s Dermatology & Plastic Surgery Institute in Cleveland.

After adjusting for age, tumor location, and stage, the investigators discovered that women diagnosed with malignant melanoma during their pregnancy or within one 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 pregnancy hormones may fuel the cancer.

“We saw significant, worse prognoses and outcomes for women with a pregnancy-associated melanoma, compared to a control group of non-pregnant women,” said Dr. Brian Gastman, a plastic surgeon, director of melanoma surgery at Cleveland Clinic, and primary investigator on the study.

“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 one year after delivery,” added Dr. Gastman in a press release.

The increasing incidence of melanoma for women younger than 50 years suggests that regular skin checks and self-examinations are warranted. In addition, in women given the diagnosis of melanoma during or within one year after childbirth, regular follow-up and monitoring for recurrence are recommended, the authors concluded.


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