Melanoma survivors ignore doctor’s warnings

By on April 15th, 2013

Data released at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting earlier this month has shown that some melanoma survivors aren’t taking the precautions that they should be taking.

The 2010 National Health Interview Survey surveyed 27,120 adults.  171 of those had a history of melanoma.

The survey found that people who have had a history of melanoma were more likely to take precautions against the sun when compared to people who have not had a history or melanoma.  Survivors were more likely to stay in the shade, wear a hat, wear a long-sleeved shirt when staying in the sun for more than an hour, and also more likely to wear sunscreen, the report said.

However among those with a history of melanoma, a large number of survivors aren’t taking the precautions they should be against the sun.

Out of the 171 adults surveyed who had melanoma, 27 percent said they never wore sunscreen when going outside on a sunny day for more than an hour compared with the 35 percent of the general population so said they never wore sunscreen.

Again when looking at survivors, 15 percent said they rarely or never stayed in the shade.

“We now know that a significant proportion of melanoma survivors still could be doing better.  This study speaks to what we could do to educate melanoma survivors on how to prevent recurrence,” said Anees Chagpar, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of surgery at Yale School of Medicine and director of the Breast Center at Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven, in the press release.

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that is less common than other types but is more serious, according to the American Cancer Society website.

“Melanoma is the killer form of skin cancer,” said Vernon Sondak, M.D., chair of the department of cutaneous oncology at Moffitt Cancer Center and director or surgical education.

It is in the top 10 list of all cancers and the only type of cancer on the top 10 that has a rising death rate, he said.

Sondak said the American Cancer Society predicted there would be 76,690 invasive cases of Melanoma in 2013 and predicted 9,480 deaths.

Florida is predicted to have 5,330 cases of melanoma in 2013; it’s the second highest number of cases predicted in the country.  California is first with 8,530 predicted cases.

He said it does not surprise him that some melanoma survivors still are not taking precautions to protect themselves from the sun.

“People are addicted to things that are harmful for them,” he said.

Living in tropical places, like Florida, makes the sun an enemy, Sondak said.  “It’s a hostile environment.”

Chagpar and colleagues looked at data from a 2010 National Health Interview Survey.

The survey is an annual survey that asks a variety of health related topics to people in the United States who are not in any kind of institution, such as a nursing home or prison.

They focused on the data that was collected on “self-reported history of melanoma, sun protection practices and indoor tanning,” the report said.

Sondak said while some people do have characteristics that make them more susceptible to melanoma—fair skin, red hair, people who never tan but burn—everyone is at risk of getting melanoma.


Data taken from the American Cancer Society's cancer statistics for 2013.

American Cancer Society

Data taken from the American Cancer Society's cancer statistics for 2013.

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