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New Study Points to Six Melanoma Risk Factors

Posted: March 23, 2009

Helping estheticians and clients create sun smart skin care routines and techniques, new research from the New York University Medical Center shows six independent risk factors for melanoma.

Melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, is a health risk that accounts for more than 75% of all skin cancer deaths, according to the American Cancer Society. Looking at this sobering statistic another way, it is estimated that one American dies from melanoma almost every hour, or every 62 minutes. While those at higher risk of developing melanoma typically have included fair-skinned individuals who sunburn but don’t tan easily and have a history of sunburns, new research has identified other factors that could increase a person’s risk of melanoma.

Speaking at the 67th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology, dermatologist Darrell S. Rigel, MD, FAAD, clinical professor of dermatology at New York University Medical Center (NYU) in New York, presented new research that identifies six factors that independently predicted melanoma risk in 600 people.

“Since we haven’t identified the gene responsible for melanoma yet, we can’t screen people with this gene who we know would be at risk for melanoma,” said Dr. Rigel. “Similar to how those with the known BRCA2 gene are carefully screened for breast cancer, we hope to one day be able to screen people that carry the melanoma gene. Until then, we have to rely on indirect measures or risk factors that we know are common to people who develop melanoma to try to educate those individuals to get regular skin exams by their dermatologist.”

In a pre-published study conducted by Dr. Rigel and a colleague at NYU Medical Center, data from characteristics of 600 people—including 300 melanoma patients and 300 control patients who had not had melanoma—were examined to try to determine what factors varied between the two groups and were most often linked to melanoma. From this research, Dr. Rigel created a new model of six factors that independently predicted melanoma risk which could be used as a quick screening method for people to assess their own risk.