Single Men Might Ignore Signs of Melanoma

Melanoma diagnoses in men living alone were more likely to be in an advanced stage

(RxWiki News) Skin cancer is common and has a high survival rate if detected early. A new study suggests that one group may be more likely to find out about their cancer once it's already at an advanced stage.

This study showed that men living alone were more likely to receive their melanoma diagnosis after the cancer had begun to spread compared to men who lived with a partner.

Melanoma, a potentially deadly form of skin cancer, has a high survival rate when caught early.

This new study also found that melanoma was more likely to be at an advanced stage at the time of diagnosis in older women who lived alone than in women who lived in a group or with a partner.

"Keep a close eye on any changes to your skin."

This study was led by Hanna Eriksson, PhD, of the the Department of Oncology-Pathology at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.

The study was a Swedish population-based study analyzing 27,235 patients from the Swedish Melanoma Register who were diagnosed with melanoma between 1990 and 2007.

Dr. Eriksson and her team looked at the probability of these patients dying from their melanoma and if the risk was greater among men living alone compared to those who were living with a partner at the time of the diagnosis.

These researchers said that melanoma is a cancer in the cells of the skin that produce pigmentation, and it may be cured if the tumor is removed prior to the cells spreading to other parts of the body. The survival rate is over 90 percent when the tumor is found and treated early, but the survival rate drops significantly if the cancer spreads before being diagnosed.

According to the Mayo Clinic, melanoma can show up as dark skin spots that have an unusual shape, have irregular borders, are larger than 0.25 inches around or change color or size.

The research team found that men living alone had a 40 percent greater risk of having a more advanced stage of cancer at time of diagnosis compared to men who were living with a partner.

"We were able to show that living alone among men is significantly associated with a reduced melanoma-specific survival, partially attributed to a more advanced stage at diagnosis. Our study shows that this applies to men of all ages, regardless of their level of education and place of residence," Dr. Eriksson said in a press release.

The data also showed that women over 70 years of age and living alone had an increased risk of the cancer being more advanced at the time of diagnosis compared to women living in groups or cohabitating.

Dr. Eriksson continued, "This points to a need for targeted interventions for earlier detection of cutaneous malignant melanoma in men and older individuals since this is critical for surviving the disease. By way of example, procedures are needed for skin examinations of these patients in connection with other doctor visits or check-ups."

The authors concluded that there was significant evidence that men of any age who lived alone had a higher risk of being diagnosed with more advanced stages of melanoma than their counterparts who lived with a partner.

This in turn may lead to a higher death rate in single men due to the cancer having spread to other areas by the time it is diagnosed.

This study was published March 31 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

This research was funded through grants from the Swedish Cancer Society, Radiumhemmet Research Funds, Sigurd and Elsa Goljes Memorial Fund and the Stockholm County Council.

Review Date: 
April 3, 2014