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Sunday, July 02, 2006

Skin Cancer Warnings


People at high risk for deadly melanoma skin cancer are no more likely to protect themselves against the sun than other people, Canadian researchers report.
Patients with a personal or family history of melanoma, or that burn easily in the sun, are considered high-risk for melanoma, and should take extra care in the sun. Our results suggest that high-risk patients were no more likely to take proper precautions in the sun than the entire cohort studied, McGill University Health Centre dermatologist Dr. Beatrice Wang said in a prepared statement.
Her team found that people considered at high risk for melanoma exhibited similar patterns of sunbathing, use of indoor tanning beds, and frequency of sunscreen and protective clothing use as other people.
In fact, the study found that the high-risk people used, on average, a lower factor sunscreen than the general population - 11 SPF compared to 18 SPF.
The study did find that, once diagnosed with melanoma, people made major changes to their sun-exposure habits. After being diagnosed with melanoma 79 percent of patients avoided sunbathing, compared to 28 percent prior to diagnosis; 93 percent used sunscreen, compared to 69 percent pre-diagnosis; and 85 percent wore protective clothing, compared to 31 percent before diagnosis.
The study appears in the Journal of Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery.
Prevention is still the best weapon we have in avoiding this killer disease, experts say. In fact, survival rates for metastatic melanoma - the fastest-growing cancer among Americans today - haven't budged for the past 30 years, according to a study presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Orlando, Fla. Researchers at the John Wayne Cancer Institute in Santa Monica, Calif., found that just 35 to 50 percent of individuals with stage III melanoma, and 5 to 10 percent of those with later-stage disease, can expect to survive over the long term.
One glimmer of hope may come in the form of maintenance biotherapy - ongoing combination drug therapy given to patients after an initial round of chemotherapy. In another study presented at this week's ASCO meeting, researchers at the Angeles Clinic and Research Institute, also in Santa Monica, report that at 30 months follow-up, 20 percent of patients with metastatic melanomas were still alive, with 12 percent showing no signs of disease.
Malignant melanoma is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Prevention is the key to reducing deaths, as such it is vital that we continually assess and improve our education and awareness campaigns.
Still, experts agree that the best way to stop melanoma is to avoid getting it in the first place.

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