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White women with skin cancer history more likely to develop melanoma

Older white women with a history of non-melanoma skin cancer are at greater risk for developing melanoma, regardless of the amount of sun they have been exposed to, finds a study the online journal Cancer.

"This study adds a history of the relatively favorable non-melanoma skin cancer -- in and of itself -- to the list of known risk factors for melanoma in both sun lovers and shade dwellers alike," said lead author Carol A. Rosenberg, M.D., assistant professor medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Rosenberg is also director of Preventive Health Initiatives, a senior attending physician at Evanston Northwestern Healthcare and a researcher at The Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University.

The study found that postmenopausal, non-Hispanic white women aged 50 to 79 years with a history of non-melanoma skin cancer, such as basal cell or squamous cell skin cancer, but no other malignancies were more than twice as more likely to develop cutaneous melanoma over a period of 6.5 years compared with women who had no history of non-melanoma skin cancer, no matter how much sun exposure or other lifestyle variables they have experienced.

"Our study further defines melanoma risk in post-menopausal women and, it is hoped, will sensitize the medical community to this risk, serving as a catalyst for development of new routines of follow-up and patient assessment to facilitate earlier detection of melanoma," said Rosenberg.

"This skin surveillance imperative may serve to be lifesaving in predisposed women," said Rosenberg.

Non-melanoma skin cancer is the most common -- yet largely undocumented -- form of cancer in the United States.

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 1.3 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancers are diagnosed yearly.

But because these types of cancers often carry a favorable prognosis, patients are unlikely to be questioned specifically regarding
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Contact: Elizabeth Crown
e-crown@northwestern.edu
312-503-8928
Northwestern University
20-Dec-2005


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