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Skin Cancer during Pregnancy Increases Risk of Death, Study Says

Update Date: Jan 21, 2016 11:45 AM EST

Pregnant women and women who are within one year of giving birth have a higher risk of suffering from a version of skin cancer that is deadlier, a new study found.

For this study, the research team examined the medical records of 462 women who were diagnosed with melanoma, which is the deadliest form of skin cancer, from 1988 through to 2012. All of the women were aged 49 or younger when they were diagnosed. 41 women were diagnosed either during pregnancy or within one year of being pregnant.

The researchers found that the melanoma diagnosed in the group of 41 women tended to spread to other organs and tissues, which is also known as metastatic melanoma. The rate was 25 percent in women diagnosed during or after pregnancy and 12.7 percent in other group of women.

Women who were diagnosed during or after pregnancy also had an increased risk of death. The death rates were 20 percent in this group and 13 percent in the group of women who were diagnosed when they were not pregnant or did not give birth recently. The researchers noted that since the increased risk of death in pregnant women diagnosed with melanoma was not significant, the increase could have been due to chance.

Time of diagnosis seemed to affect risk of recurrence as well. 12.5 percent of women who were diagnosed at around the time of pregnancy had the cancer return after treatment. The recurrence rate for the other group was 1.4 percent.

The researchers did not find what caused melanoma to become more deadly when diagnosed at around the same time as or shortly after a pregnancy. Senior author Dr. Brian Gastman reasoned that hormones and a suppressed immune system could be contributing factors.

The team acknowledged, however that since their sample was taken from one center that focuses on complex cases of melanoma, the findings might be not representative of the larger female skin cancer patient group. Regardless, the team recommends protecting the skin from ultra violet (UV) radiation at all times.

The study's findings were published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

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