History of NMSC signals higher melanoma risk in older white women

January 3, 2006

Evanston, Ill. -- Post-menopausal, non-Hispanic white women with a history of non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) are at greater risk for developing the significantly more serious melanoma skin cancer.

Evanston, Ill. -- Post-menopausal, non-Hispanic white women with a history of non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) are at greater risk for developing the significantly more serious melanoma skin cancer.

According to a study published online last month by The American Cancer Society journal Cancer, white women ages 50 to 79 with a history of NMSC, such as basal cell or squamous cell skin cancer but no other malignancies, were 2.41 times more likely to develop cutaneous melanoma over 6.5 years, compared with women who had no history of NMSC, regardless of sun exposure history or other lifestyle variables.

The study was conducted by a research team at Evanston Northwestern Healthcare and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. The study noted that more than 1.3 million cases of NMSC are diagnosed yearly, but because these types of cancers often have a positive prognosis, physicians are less likely to question patients specifically about a history of NMSC during routine physical examinations.

The Cancer Society estimates that nearly 60,000 invasive melanomas were diagnosed in the United States in 2005, and that nearly 7,770 men and women were expected to die from this disease. The disease is very difficult to treat once it has spread beyond its starting point.

The study is part of the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study conducted in 40 communities throughout the United States.