FRIDAY, June 28 (HealthDay News) -- New research shows that
melanoma can recur decades after initial treatment in roughly 9
percent of patients.
The findings show that people who have had melanoma require
lifelong follow-up, the study authors said.
The investigators looked at over 4,700 melanoma patients and
found that recurrence occurred in 408 patients who had been
disease-free for 10 or more years. The recurrence rates were nearly
7 percent after 15 years and 11 percent after 25 years, according
to the study in the July issue of the
Journal of the American College of Surgeons.
But the researchers also found that patients whose melanoma
recurred 10 or more years later were less likely to die than those
whose melanoma recurred within three years of treatment. Those with
late recurrence were about 40 percent less likely to die of
melanoma than those with early recurrence, and those with late
recurrence also had a better overall survival rate.
Patients whose melanoma did not come back until at least 10
years after treatment were younger on average than those with early
recurrence (age 41 versus 51).
Also, patients with a later recurrence tended to have had an
original melanoma with less dangerous characteristics, the
researchers noted. They also found that men accounted for 66
percent of patients with early recurrence, compared with 57 percent
of those with late recurrence.
"For patients with melanoma, survival beyond 10 years without a
recurrence has been considered nearly synonymous with a cure," lead
investigator Dr. Mark Faries, a professor of surgery at the John
Wayne Cancer Institute at Saint John's Health Center in Santa
Monica, Calif., said in a journal news release. "However, most
studies do not follow-up patients longer than 10 years. Our study
found that late melanoma recurrence is not rare and that it occurs
more frequently in certain patient groups," he noted.
"It appears the risk of melanoma recurrence is never completely
gone," Faries said. "One change that should result from our study
is that people need to be followed-up for life with a physician
after a diagnosis of melanoma," he pointed out.
"Fortunately, the vast majority of melanoma patients who remain
disease-free longer than 10 years will not have a recurrence,"
Faries added. "However, patients should be aware that persistent or
unexplained symptoms anywhere in the body might indicate a
recurrence of their melanoma, and they should return to their
physician to make sure the symptoms are not related."
Nearly 76,700 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in the
United States this year, according to the American Cancer
The American Cancer Society has more about