October 4, 2005

Repeat Skin Cancer Risk is High, Study Says

CHICAGO -- Those who develop a potentially deadly form of skin cancer run a high risk of having it come back after the initial attack is treated and removed, according to a study published on Tuesday.

The continuing risk of otherwise highly treatable melanoma is even greater if there is a family history of the disease, researchers added.

"If you've had a melanoma, you are at lifetime risk for developing a second or third primary melanoma, and it's absolutely incumbent on every single patient with melanoma to be rigorous in insisting on long-term contact with their dermatologist," said Daniel Coit of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, an author of the study.

A primary melanoma is one that develops anew as compared to tumors that spread from an existing site.

The report published in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association covered 4,484 patients who were diagnosed with a first primary melanoma between January 1, 1996, and December 31, 2002.

Those in the study had an 11 percent risk of developing a secondary primary melanoma, usually within a year after the first one was diagnosed, the study said, Those who did develop a second case of the disease then had nearly a 31 percent chance of developing a third primary tumor within one to five years.

Of the patients who developed more than one primary tumor, 21 percent had a history of the disease in their family, the report added.

Cases of melanoma are rising about 3 percent per year in the United States, with 62,000 new cases and 7,600 related deaths likely to occur in 2005. While the chance of any one individual developing the disease is 1.4 percent, it is the fifth most common cancer in men and the sixth in women.