Look Out For Neck & Scalp
Be on the lookout for melanomas that
may erupt on your neck, ears, or even
your scalp following a bad sunburn.
every melanoma acts the same. New research points to the fact that cancerous spots
on the neck and scalp can be more dangerous than skin cancer on other parts of
your body... and tend to take longer to get diagnosed.
cancer, like most cancers, is easier to treat when it is caught early. A recent
study helps address a controversy among cancer researchers: whether scalp and
neck skin cancer is more lethal primarily because its diagnosed later than
That was the thinking of a lot of people in the field, Thomas said.
But the analysis indicates that the presence of the melanoma on the scalp or neck,
in itself, is an indicator of a poorer prognosis.
with scalp or neck melanomas die at nearly twice the rate of people with melanoma
elsewhere on the body, including the face or ears, researchers at the University
of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have found.
analysis of 51,704 melanoma cases in the U.S. confirms that survival rates differ
depending on where skin cancer first appears. Those with neck or scalp melanomas die at a rate 1.84 times higher than those with melanomas on the extremities,
after controlling for the possible influences of age, gender, tumor thickness
and neck melanomas patients have a higher rate of death than patients with melanoma
anywhere else on the body, said Nancy Thomas, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor
of dermatology in the UNC School of Medicine, a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive
Cancer Center and the studys senior author. Anne Lachiewicz, a medical student
in the UNC School of Medicine, is the lead author of the study.
recommends that physicians pay special attention to the scalp when examining patients
for signs of skin cancer. Only six percent of melanoma patients present
with the disease on the scalp or neck, but those patients account for 10 percent
of melanoma deaths. Thats why we need to take extra time to look at the
scalp during full-skin examinations, she said.
theres something different about scalp and neck melanomas, Thomas
said. This gives us directions for research to look at tumor cell types
in those areas at the molecular level and to see if there are differences. Im
interested in identifying the mutations that drive malignancy.
Lachiewicz and their colleagues analyzed data from 13 National Cancer Institute
Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) Program registries in nine states.
Each case represented the first invasive melanoma diagnosed among non-Hispanic
white adults between 1992 and 2003.
with scalp or neck melanomas were older (59 years) than patients with other melanomas
(55 years), and more likely to be male (74 percent versus 54 percent, respectively).
In addition, scalp and neck melanomas were thicker (0.8 millimeters) than melanomas
at other sites (0.6 millimeters) and more likely to be ulcerated. Lymph node involvement
was also more common in patients with scalp-neck melanomas.
on the extremities or on the face or ears had the best prognosis. The five-year
melanoma-specific survival rate for patients with scalp or neck melanomas was
83 percent, compared with 92 percent for patients with melanomas at other sites.
The ten-year survival rate was 76 percent for scalp or neck melanomas and 89 percent
for other melanomas.
co-authors are Drs. Marianne Berwick and Charles Wiggins of the University of
was provided by the National Cancer Institute and a Holderness Medical Foundation
Fellowship to Lachiewicz.
More about melanoma around the Web:
Melanoma Treatment Options
Don't Forget to Protect Your Scalp from Skin Cancer
information is intended as reference and not as medical advice.
decisions should be made by medical professionals.