Florida Dermatology and Skin Cancer Centers loves our breast cancer survivors! While we don’t treat breast cancer, we see a number of survivors in our practice, and we want them to continue winning against cancer. Unfortunately, breast cancer and melanoma are related, with research showing that having one increases the risk of developing the other. It’s called a bi-directional link.
The International Journal of Cancer published a study in 2004 indicating breast cancer survivors were 16 percent more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma than women without breast cancer, and women who had melanoma faced an 11 percent greater risk of a subsequent breast cancer. Breast cancer survivors diagnosed at a younger age or who received radiation therapy faced even higher risks.
More recent studies have supported those findings. In 2009, the Irish Journal of Medical Science reported an analysis of the National Irish Cancer Registry database backing up the bi-directional link. A 2011 study published in the Archives of Dermatology found a similar increase in risk levels, particularly among younger breast cancer survivors (diagnosed before age 45).
Focusing on preventive care and early detection of melanoma are important for everyone, but breast cancer survivors need to be especially careful. Reduce your risks by:
- Protecting your skin from UVA and UVB rays with sunscreen, clothing, and hats;
- Wearing sunglasses to shield your eyes and sensitive skin around the eyes;
- Getting annual skin exams by a dermatologist;
- Paying attention to changes in your skin, especially new growths; and
- Checking-in with your doctor when you notice anything unusual.
All cancers are scary. Like breast cancer, melanoma is potentially life-threatening, but treatments continue to advance. FLDSCC has a dermatopathologist on-site for accurate diagnosis, without sending a biopsy to an outside lab. We also use the latest surgical techniques including Mohs micrographic surgery, which is both effective and minimally-scarring.
Be good to your skin during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and every month.