Pregnant Women Face Greater Melanoma Risk

Women diagnosed with malignant melanoma during pregnancy or within 1 year of giving birth were 5.1 times as likely to die.

New research found that pregnant women younger than 50 face a greater risk of developing melanoma.

Although melanoma is less common, it is one of the most deadly forms of skin cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the disease develops when unrepaired DNA damage in skin cells trigger mutations, thus leading to rapidly multiplying skin cells that form tumors.

Researchers from Cleveland Clinic’s Dermatology & Plastic Surgery Institute believe that pregnancy hormones can fuel cancer. This belief is based off of new information that showed women who were diagnosed with malignant melanoma during pregnancy or within 1 year of giving birth were 5.1 times as likely to die.

They also found that these women were 6.9 times as likely to experience metastasis and 9.2 times to have a recurrence.

"We saw significant, worse prognoses and outcomes for women with a pregnancy-associated melanoma, compared to a control group of non-pregnant women," said lead study investigator Brian Gastman, MD. "The rate of metastasis, recurrence and death in our findings were astounding -- as the rates were measurably higher in women who were diagnosed with melanoma while pregnant, or within one year after delivery."

This study, which analyzed a clinical database of electronic medical records, was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. The records offered a plethora of detailed data on 462 woman with melanoma 49 years and younger diagnosed between 1988 and 2012. Women with a follow-up of less than 2 years were excluded from the study.

Researchers discovered that women below 50, especially those who were pregnant, are at a higher risk of developing melanoma. These women are encouraged to be extra cautious in monitoring changing skin lesions and staying on top of dermatological follow ups.

With melanoma rates on the rise over the past 30 years and a reported doubling of cases in the United States between 1982 and 2011, the results of the study further prove the importance preventable risk factors such as UV rays from the sun and artificial sources.

The American Academy of Dermatology stressed the importance of protecting the skin from harmful UV rays by seeking shade, wearing protective clothing, and wearing water-resistant sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or higher. They also warn against using tanning beds, because it increases the risk of melanoma especially in women 45 and younger.