Women diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer during or just after pregnancy are at greater risk from the cancer than other women, a new study finds.
Pregnancy hormones may fuel the most deadly type of skin cancer, the researchers said.
“The rate of metastasis (cancer spread), 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,” lead investigator Dr. Brian Gastman, a plastic surgeon and director of melanoma surgery at the Cleveland Clinic, said in a hospital news release.
However, the study was only designed to find a link between melanoma outcomes and pregnancy; it cannot show a cause-and-effect relationship.
The study looked at almost 500 women diagnosed with melanoma between 1988 and 2012. The women were aged 49 or younger. The researchers followed their health for two years or more.
The investigators found that women diagnosed with melanoma during pregnancy or within one year of giving birth were five times more likely to die of the cancer. They were also seven times more likely to have their cancer spread, and nine times more likely to have a recurrence of their cancer, compared with other women, the research revealed.
The study was published online Jan. 20 in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
Melanoma rates in the United States doubled between 1982 and 2011, the researchers said. These new study findings show that women younger than 50, especially those who are pregnant, need to be especially vigilant in monitoring themselves for signs of skin cancer, the researchers advised.
The American Cancer Society has more about melanoma.