Patients facing an elevated risk of melanoma recurrence during a period of 10 years, compared to an early recurrence within the first 3 years, were normally at a younger age at diagnosis and generally displayed fewer severe characteristics of the original tumor, according to researchers.
Participating in the study were nearly 5,000 melanoma patients who received long-term follow up care. After being cancer-free for at least 10 years, 400 of those patients experienced a late melanoma recurrence. The authors claimed that the recurrence rates were reportedly 6.8 percent 15 years following the start of treatment and 11.3 percent at 25 years.
By including only participants who underwent initial treatment at the John Wayne Cancer Institute to determine the melanoma recurrence rate, the researchers discovered that 6.9% of patients demonstrated a late recurrence.
Over 76,000 new cases of melanoma are expected to be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2013, according to the American Cancer Society, with more males impacted than females. These new findings, however, reveal that late melanoma recurrence was less male-predominant compared to patients whose cancer returned in the first three years.
According to senior author Mark Faries, MD, FACS, the gender disparity could be due to melanoma behaving worse in men than in women, although it is still unclear why. It was also found that patients with late recurrence of melanoma had a 40% reduced risk of dying from melanoma compared to patients with early recurrence.
Dr. Faries claims that the great majority of melanoma patients who remain disease three for over a decade will not see recurrence. However, patients should remain aware that persistent or unexplained symptoms anywhere in the body could indicate the recurrence of the disease. In this case, patients should consult with their doctors to ensure the symptoms are not related.
The researchers conclude that patients should receive a clinical examination each year with their physician, even if no symptoms are present. Dr. Faries also orders an annual chest X-ray and laboratory tests for his melanoma patients.
Written by Elijah Lamond