According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, in the past three decades more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. It can be treated if it is caught in its early stages, so prevention and early detection education have become key components to the work being done to try to slow the trend of rising melanoma rates.
In the U.S. last year, researchers who noted that melanoma rates had been steadily rising for the last two decades confirmed that in the last seven years rates of incident for both invasive melanoma and in situ melanoma went up. Death rates had also increased.
New research from Australia, just published in the International Journal of Cancer, looked at the last two decades of records from the Queensland Cancer Registry and examined recent trends.
“We have the highest rates in the world of melanoma in Queensland, and yet we have somehow managed to achieve what looks to be falling melanoma rates,” Cancer Council Queensland head of research Professor Joanne Aitken said, according to the Herald Sun.
“Generation after generation the rates seem to be getting lower. It suggests that the sun-protection campaigns that Queensland was the first to introduce to Australia – was the first to introduce around the world in the 1980s – are finally beginning to pay off,” she said.
The researchers found that over the 20-year period, incidence of in situ melanoma, where the cancerous tumors are confined to the top layer of the skin, increased in all age groups. Aitken attributes this increase to the fact that early intervention campaigns are working and more melanomas are being caught at this treatable stage.
In contrast, incidence of invasive melanomas decreased in people younger than 40 and there was no change in rate of incidence for those aged 40 to 59 years. In these two age groups during the period studied between 1995 and 2014, melanoma mortality also remained stable or decreased.
It is notable, however, that the study showed that compared to the rest of the population of Queensland older men experienced a different trend during the last 20 years. Both incidence of invasive melanoma and melanoma mortality actually increased for people older than 60, particularly men.
The time period being studied coincides with the use of erectile dysfunction drugs such as Viagra, which became available in 1998. One possible explanation for an increase in melanoma incidence during this particular time period in this specific population is the prevalent use of these drugs, which have been linked to increased risk of melanoma.
ED drugs known as PDE5 inhibitors have been shown to cause melanoma to grow more rapidly. Studies are still being done to further understand the impact that inhibiting PDE5 has on melanoma, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is looking into the need for regulatory action concerning these drugs.
It is wise for men who have taken these drugs to pay particular attention to the advice to take melanoma risk seriously, have regular skin screenings and be on the lookout for early signs of skin cancer.
Skin Cancer Foundation
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