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More skin cancer tumors may mean better survival


Patients with skin cancer have better odds of survival if they have more than one primary tumor, according to results of a recent study.

Researchers examined 2,372 patients with single primary melanomas and 1,206 patients with multiple primary melanomas. They were enrolled in the Genes, Environment and Melanoma study from registries in Australia, Canada, Italy and the United States, according to the study.

Investigators analyzed DNA and tissue samples from patients to establish the number of tumors and mutations each patient had, the thickness of the tumors, how actively tumors were growing and whether tumor surface had broken. Participants also answered questionnaires about family history, personal history and lifestyle.

If tumors created an ulcer in the dermis, researchers found, surviving from melanoma was less likely. Tumor thickness was the most significant factor in survival, as patients with tumors that were 4 mm or more into the dermis were 7.7 times more likely to die than those patients with tumors less than 1 mm into the dermis.

Patients with multiple primary tumors whose tumors went 4 mm or deeper into the dermis were nearly three times as likely to die than patients with tumors at only 1 mm, according to a news release. Patients with a single primary tumor that was 4 mm or deeper were 13.6 times more likely to die than patients with a tumor of only 1 mm.

“It seems that those people with multiple melanoma have some sort of native immune factor that’s helping them,” Marianne Berwick, Ph.D., co-author and professor of epidemiology at University of New Mexico Cancer Center, said in a statement. “It’s keeping the melanoma in check.”

The research team is planning additional studies to find immune biomarkers and examine how sun exposure impacts skin cancer survival, as well as study tumors in greater detail.

The findings were published online June 19 in JAMA Dermatology.

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