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Living Alone Ups Risk Of Death From Skin Cancer

Here’s a tip on skin cancer for those who live alone. Our skin is, after all, one of the largest organs of the body, but one we don’t usually think about in terms of healthcare and diseases that put our very lives at risk. Research from the Karolinska Institutet on skin cancer is the first to show that there are differences in the prognosis of a particularly dangerous form of the disease (known technically as cutaneous malignant melanoma) depending on both your gender and living status.

That’s right, a single man, no matter his age, is more likely to die from this disease than is a man living with a partner. This form of skin cancer is one of the fastest growing cancers for white populations and is increasingly a health problem for younger people.

Doctors will tell you that there are three forms of skin cancer, melanoma being the hardest to treat. The other two, basal cell and squamous cell, are more common and can be effectively treated, often in the doctor’s office. You can cure melanoma of the skin if the tumor is surgically removed before the cancer has had chance to spread to other parts of the body. If your cutaneous malignant melanoma is caught early the long-term survival is over 90%. Advanced disease at the time of diagnosis makes the prognosis far more dire.

The latest study used data from the Swedish Melanoma Register, a nationwide, population based sample of those with cutaneous malignant melanoma diagnosis in Sweden during the years 1990 to 2007. The team looked at the risk of dying of melanoma for over 27,000 patients and any relationship to their living status at the time of diagnosis. During the study period 13,400 men were diagnosed and about 2,400 died. The statistical formula used adjusted for things that researchers know affect a prognosis like the characteristics of the tumor itself, gender, level of education and the part of the body where the tumor developed.

Continues below…


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Living Alone Ups Risk Of Death From Skin Cancer Continued…

Living alone for men was found to be significantly (from 30 to 50% in fact) linked
to a reduced survival that’s partially attributed to a more advanced stage of
disease at diagnosis. This applies to men of all ages, regardless of education
level or where they live. Older women living alone also have a more advanced
disease at time of diagnosis, but this group didn’t show any effect on prognosis.

Clearly we need more targeted interventions to detect this cancer earlier in men since this is key to surviving the disease. Skin exams during doctor visits or clinic checks are possible options. Of course, living on your own, it’s hard to do skin self checks, so it will be especially important for singles to get careful skin exams on a regular basis.

To check for melanoma, your doctor, or a dermatologist, will do a close, thorough exam of your skin surface, and perhaps a biopsy of any suspicious area. You may also have your lymph nodes checked to see if they are enlarged, including a sentinel lymph node biopsy. Imaging tests such as PET scans, CT scans or MRI scans may be ordered to see if cancer has spread to other areas of the body such as the lungs, liver or brain.

To your good health,