Many Moles Still a Top Indicator of Skin Cancer

Watching clients for suspicious moles is still one of the top ways to fight skin cancer, as new research shows people with a large number of moles are at the highest risk for the disease.

Although where one lives may influence the risk for skin cancer, people with a large number of moles seem to have a consistent risk regardless of their latitude of residence, researchers have found.

Moles, also known as melanocytic nevi, are a precursor of melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer. "We carried out a study in collaboration with groups around the world to further understand the risk for melanoma that is associated with having large number of nevi," Dr. Julia A. Newton-Bishop said.

Newton-Bishop of the University of Leeds, UK and colleagues pooled data from 15 studies involving 5,421 people with melanoma and 6,966 controls without melanoma. They found that people with the highest number of moles on their body had a greatly increased risk for melanoma compared with those with the lowest number of moles, regardless of where they lived.

Overall, "the study showed that the risk associated with larger numbers of moles was remarkably constant between studies and at different latitudes," Newton-Bishop explained. "The incidence of melanoma continues to increase in many countries," she added, concluding that "our study highlights the fact that individuals within those populations who have more moles are at greater risk, and should both avoid sunburn, and know how to recognize a melanoma."

SOURCE: International Journal of Cancer, January 15, 2009.

Reuters Health, February 12, 2009

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