A recent study has found that grieving over the death of a partner is associated with a lower risk of melanoma diagnosis, but also with increased melanoma mortality.
Published online ahead of print in the British Journal of Dermatology (Mar. 3, 2020), the study was conducted to address the lack of clinical evidence supporting the idea that psychological stress can be a risk factor for melanoma, by looking at individuals who had lost a partner, which is considered one of the most stressful life events. Two cohort studies were conducted using information from the UK Clinical Practice Research Datalink (1997–2017) and Danish nationwide registries (1997–2016). The first cohort study compared the risk of first melanoma diagnosis in bereaved vs. matched non-bereaved people, while the second estimated hazard ratios (HRs) for death from melanoma in bereaved compared with non-bereaved individuals with melanoma. Investigators found that partner bereavement was linked with a decreased risk of being diagnosed with melanoma, but with an increased risk of dying after being diagnosed. “The study findings are interesting and may relate to bereaved people no longer having someone to help with skin examinations, leading to delays in diagnosis, although we cannot rule out stress being important in melanoma progression,” said senior author Sinéad Langan, PhD, in a press release. Dr. Langan is a professor of clinical epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, U.K. In the paper the authors note that their findings suggest a need for a low threshold for skin examination in individuals whose partners have died.