Study identifies characteristics of fast-growing skin cancers
Melanomas (skin cancers) are more likely to grow rapidly if they are thicker, symmetrical, elevated, have regular borders or have symptoms, according to a report in the December issue of Archives of Dermatology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. In addition, rapidly progressing melanoma is more likely to occur in elderly men and individuals with fewer moles and freckles, and its cells tend to divide more quickly and have fewer pigments than those of slower-growing cancers.
“Anecdotal experience suggests that there is a form of rapidly growing melanoma, but little is known about its frequency, rate of growth, or associations,” the authors write as background information in the article. One previous study suggested that how quickly a melanoma grew predicted how likely the patient was to relapse at one year or to survive without relapsing. Other research indicates that different types of melanoma grow at different rates; for instance, an aggressive type known as nodular melanoma grows more quickly than any other kind.
Wendy Liu, M.B.Ch.B., Ph.D., Peter MacCallum Cancer Center, East Melbourne, Australia, and colleagues investigated melanoma growth rate in 404 consecutive patients (222 male, 182 female, average age 54.2) with invasive melanoma. Participants? skin was examined by a dermatologist and information about such characteristics as the number of typical and atypical moles was recorded. In addition, the patients were interviewed as soon as possible after diagnosis and preferably with a friend or family present. The researchers gathered information about demographics, skin cancer risk factors, the characteristics of the tumor and who first detected the cancer?the patient, a family member or friend, or a physician.
In addition, all patients and their families were asked to recall the date at which they first noticed a spot on their skin from which the melanoma later developed and then the date at which they noticed the