Melanoma Odds Doubled for Transplant, Lymphoma Patients: Study

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Transplant recipients and patients with lymphoma have a significantly increased risk of developing and dying from melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer, a new study indicates.

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota found that melanoma is 2.5 times more likely to strike these patients than people in the general population. Melanoma is also more likely to be fatal in these patients, according to the study, published in the October issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Patients with a form of lymphoma called chronic lymphocytic leukemia who develop melanoma are 2.8 times more likely to die from metastatic melanoma, in which the cancer spreads from the skin to other parts of the body.

Transplant recipients and lymphoma patients have weakened immune systems, which makes early detection of melanoma especially important, the researchers said. Early detection will improve their chances of survival.

"How you catch melanoma earlier is to be very aware of your skin," study co-author Dr. Jerry Brewer, a dermatologist, said in a Mayo news release. "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."

Applying sunscreen once a day isn't enough, he added. For immunosuppressed patients, the risk of melanoma is so high that they should use sunscreen "almost as often as you brush your teeth," he said.

The first signs of melanoma are often a change in a mole's appearance or the development of a new pigmented or unusual looking growth, he explained.

Melanoma is on the rise in the United States and affects about one in 50 people in the general population.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about melanoma.

-- Robert Preidt

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