New research says melanoma recurrences more prevalent thanpreviously believed

May 2, 2006

Hanover, N.H. -- According to researchers at the Dartmouth MedicalSchool here, recurrent melanoma is more common than previouslythought, with nearly 15 percent of people diagnosed with thepotentially fatal disease at risk of a second diagnosis within twoyears.

Hanover, N.H. - According to researchers at the Dartmouth Medical School here, recurrent melanoma is more common than previously thought, with nearly 15 percent of people diagnosed with the potentially fatal disease at risk of a second diagnosis within two years.

The new study, published in the April issue of Archives of Dermatology, says that about 6 percent of melanoma patients will develop a second melanoma within a year of the initial diagnosis, and that 8 percent will be diagnosed with a second malignancy within two years. Previous studies have put melanoma recurrence at less than 4 percent within a year, according to the new study.

The Dartmouth study focused on 354 New Hampshire residents who’d been diagnosed with melanoma. All answered questions about their medical history, sun exposure history, hair and eye color, and whether their skin tanned, burned or freckled. Then a physician gave them a skin examination. The study found that about two-thirds of those who developed additional malignancies and 37 percent of those who did not had at least one atypical mole, a risk factor for additional melanomas. Those with three or more atypical moles had four times the risk of developing an additional tumor. In one-third of the patients who developed another melanoma within two years, the subsequent melanoma was deeper than the first.

In addition, the study found little relationship between risk and benign moles, eye and hair color or length of sun exposure. The study did, however, reveal an unexpected inverse relationship between blistering sunburn and melanoma: Those with a history of sunburn appeared less likely to develop a second melanoma than those without such a history. The study’s authors write that this finding must be viewed cautiously, because it’s possible that people who are predisposed to multiple melanomas may be less vulnerable to sunburn than those who get only one melanoma, or there may be a separate reason for the finding.