Despite the seriousness of melanoma compared to other skin lesions, there has so far been only anecdotal description of the characteristics of rapidly growing melanoma.
Melanomas are more likely to grow rapidly if they are thicker, symmetrical, elevated, and/or have regular borders, according to a study published in the December issue of Archives of Dermatology.
Wendy Liu, M.B.Ch.B., Ph.D., of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Center, East Melbourne, Australia, and colleagues analyzed melanoma growth rate in 404 patients (222 male, 182 female, average age 54.2) with invasive melanoma. The number of typical and atypical moles was recorded by a dermatologist and, after a diagnosis of melanoma, patients were interviewed to obtain information about demographics, skin cancer risk factors, the characteristics of the tumor and who first detected the cancer.
Patients and their families were also asked to recall the date at which they first noticed a spot on their skin and the date when they noticed the marking had changed or become suspicious. The researchers used these two dates, the date that the melanoma was removed, and the thickness of the tumor at the time of removal to estimate the growth rate of the melanoma. The tumors with a faster mitotic rate also had a faster growth rate of (as determined by the researchers’ formula).
A high rate of growth was associated with tumor thickness, ulceration, amelanosis, regular borders, elevation, in individuals 70 years or older, in men and in those with fewer moles and freckles. Surprisingly, several risk factors for the development of melanoma were not associated with the rate of growth, including the number of atypical moles or solar lentigines, history of sun damage or blistering sunburns, skin type, eye color, family or personal history of melanoma, and current or childhood sun exposure.
The authors suggested that identifying characteristics of faster growing melanomas might allow more rapid diagnosis and treatment of aggressive cancers.
About the Author
Jeanne Bohm, Ph.D. is a cancer biologist by training, a medical writer and an experienced science educator.
The author has no financial relationship to any of the companies listed in the article.
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