Melanoma Skin Cancer a Chronic Disease Causing
Long-Term Problems for Women
Women need additional care, including follow-up and
possibly counseling to optimally cope with melanoma
Feb. 21, 2011 Melanoma, the most deadly skin
cancer, is considered a chronic life-threatening disease and a source of
significant stress. Women, however, seem to experience more
health-related quality of life issues than men for up to 10 years after
being diagnosed with melanoma, says a new report.
"Although the prognosis is relatively good for
about 80 percent of patients with melanoma, they remain at risk for
disease progression and have an increased risk of developing subsequent
melanomas," according to the research report in the February issue of
Archives of Dermatology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
Couples encouraged to examine each other for
suspicious moles that could be skin cancer. Researchers estimate that 40
50% of people in the U.S. who live to age 65 will have nonmelanoma
skin cancer at least once.
Previous studies have suggested about one-third of
patients with melanoma have reported significant levels of distress.
"Therefore, melanoma can be considered a chronic life-threatening
disease that may affect patients' lives considerably."
To assess the impact of melanoma on the
health-related quality of life of patients for up to 10 years after
diagnosis, Cynthia Holterhues, M.D., from Erasmus MC, Rotterdam, the
Netherlands, and colleagues, analyzed responses from a Dutch
population-based postal survey among patients with melanoma for 1998 to
2008 using the Eindhoven Cancer Registry.
Study participants were sent an impact of cancer
survey to measure the well-being of long-term cancer survivors. The
41-item survey included questions on physical, psychological, social,
existential, meaning of cancer and health worry.
The response rate to the survey was 80 percent (562
participants). The average age of the respondents was about 57 years, 62
percent were female and 76 percent had a melanoma with a thickness of
less than 2 millimeters.
"Women were significantly more likely to report
higher levels of both positive and negative impacts of cancer," the
The lowest scores were on questions about cancer or
treatment-related symptoms of the cancer that interferes with a
patients' socializing, traveling, or time with family.
The highest score was seen on existential, positive
outlook subscale, which covers increased wisdom and spirituality because
of the cancer experience.
"Women seemed to adjust their sun behavior more
often (54 percent vs. 67 percent) than men and were more worried about
the deleterious effects of UV radiation (45 percent vs. 66 percent)."
In addition, the researchers note that this cancer
may also affect other parts of patients' lives. "A small proportion of
individuals experienced difficulties in getting health insurance as a
result of their melanoma, but up to a third of the patients experienced
difficulty getting life insurance, disability insurance and/or a
"In clinical practice, this observation may imply
that women need additional care, including follow-up and possibly
counseling to optimally cope with their melanoma, the authors say in
conclusion. However, men might be less aware of general measures of sun
protection and need education about these measures after treatment."
Melanoma is the most serious type of
skin cancer. Often the first sign of melanoma is a change in the
size, shape, color or feel of a mole. Most melanomas have a black or
black-blue area. Melanoma may also appear as a new mole. It may be
black, abnormal or "ugly looking."
Thinking of "ABCD" can help you remember what to
● Asymmetry - the shape of one half does not match the other
● - the edges are ragged, blurred or irregular
● Color - the color in uneven and may include shades of black,
brown and tan
● Diameter - there is a change in size, usually an increase
Melanoma can be cured if it is diagnosed and
treated early. If melanoma is not removed in its early stages, cancer
cells may grow downward from the skin surface and invade healthy tissue.
If it spreads to other parts of the body it can be difficult to control.