Sun Habits are Hard to Break for Melanoma Patients

The surprising findings of a new study reveal that some people with melanoma do not reduce their sun exposure, though ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is a main cause of the disease.

Within two to three years after being diagnosed with melanoma, patients seem to drop their caution and are exposed to at least as much UV radiation as people without the disease, according to a recent study published October 2 online in the journal JAMA Dermatology.

Dr. Luise Idorn, the study’s lead author from Bispebjerg Hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark, concludes that patients with melanoma apparently “relax more when time passes after diagnosis. We think they just regress back to old habits.”

Researchers compared two groups over three summers: 20 people with malignant melanoma and 20 people without the disease. Each kept a sun exposure diary and was equipped with a portable UV-dose-detection device.

During the first summer after their melanoma diagnosis, patients spent fewer days in the sun without sunscreen than people in the cancer-free comparison group, the study showed.

However, the study also revealed that during the second summer the melanoma patients’ daily UV radiation dose rose by 25 percent over their exposure during their first summer post diagnosis. The patients’ UV radiation exposure increased yet again in the third summer. In contrast, the people without melanoma were exposed to similar levels of radiation across all three years.

“I would have thought that a diagnosis of melanoma would change their behavior. This study indicates they may be more cautious, but only the first year after diagnosis,” Idorn said. The researchers noted that their study was small and did not include information on sun exposure before participants developed melanoma.

According to Idorn, there’s a need for more studies, including focus groups of people with melanoma, to figure out how doctors can help patients reduce their time in the sun.

Melanoma rates in the US have been rising, and over 76,000 new melanomas diagnoses are expected in 2013, according to The American Cancer Society. Remember the ABCDE warning signs for melanoma. A = asymmetrical shape, B = irregular borders, C = variable colors, D = diameter larger than 6 mm, E = evolving/changing.

Interested in learning more? Contact Zimmet Vein & Dermatology today.

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