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Melanoma Death Rate Still Climbing

Posted: June 19, 2006

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Melanoma is a far more menacing threat. There are expected to be 62,190 new cases of melanoma diagnosed in the United States this year, and about 7,910 deaths from the cancer. Overall, the mortality rate for the disease has increased by 50 percent since the 1970s, according to the American Cancer Society.

However, new research could help treat, and perhaps prevent, melanoma. In a study published in the November issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that there are at least several distinct types of melanoma, each potentially responding to its own individual treatment.

"It's very clear the landscape is changing because more and more genetic abnormalities are being found, and there are targeted therapies available for some of them," said study author Dr. Boris Bastian, an assistant professor of dermatology and pathology at the University of California, San Francisco.

Bastian found that there are differences between melanomas arising from skin on different parts of the body: chronically sun-damaged skin, skin without sun damage, skin rarely exposed to the sun, and mucous membranes.

"Therapies may only work for specific genetic abnormalities," Bastian said. "We're going to see, like in other cancer types, a breakup of the disease for treatment."