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Genital Skin Cancer More Deadly for Females

Women are three times more likely than men to die of genital nonmelanoma skin cancer, new U.S. research shows.

Genital nonmelanoma skin cancer can be caused by sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV), which is also associated with cervical cancer.

In this study, researchers found that almost 30,000 people -- 22,000 women and 8,000 men -- died of genital nonmelanoma skin cancers in the United States from 1969 to 2000.

The older a person is, the greater their risk of genital nonmelanoma skin cancer (NMSC). The findings were scheduled for presentation Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology, in Washington, D.C.

"As dermatologists, we expect to see skin cancers induced by ultraviolet light, because sunlight is one of the primary risk factors for the disease," researcher Dr. Martin A. Weinstock, professor of dermatology and community health at Brown University in Providence, R.I., said in a prepared statement.

"But some of the most dangerous types of skin cancers are those that are not sun-induced, such as skin cancers that occur on genital skin -- a place that is not exposed to intense sun and is not routinely examined by dermatologists. That's why there needs to be an increased awareness of this issue, so patients and physicians can be better prepared to detect these cancers early before they become fatal," said Weinstock, who is also chief dermatologist at Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Providence.

Because they're not always readily visible and may not cause any noticeable symptoms, genital skin cancers can be difficult to diagnose.

"The number of deaths attributed to genital NMSCs was higher than expected, and we believe HPV was a major cause of these cancers," Weinstock said.

"The availability of the new HPV vaccine offers the potential for a substantial reduction in the development of these skin cancers for future generations," he noted.

In addition, since "HPV is a sexually transmitted disease, both men and women can practice preventive measures that could lead to a decline in mortality rates from genital NMSCs and heed the warning signs of the disease, including new growths or sores that don't heal, to detect it early."

HealthDay News, Monday, February 5, 2007

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