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Study reveals melanoma risk for bereaved individuals

Thursday March 5th, 2020

People who lose their partner are less likely to be diagnosed with melanoma - but have an increased risk of dying from the disease, according to UK/Danish research.

Scientists from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, UK, and Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark, say they believe not having a partner to check for skin changes could play a role.

They used data from two large population-based studies between 1997 and 2017 in the UK and Denmark and found that melanoma patients who experienced bereavement had a 17% higher risk of dying from their melanoma compared with those who were not bereaved. Similar results were seen in the UK and Denmark.

This study, published in the British Journal of Dermatology, also showed that those who had lost a partner were 12% less likely to be diagnosed with melanoma compared with non-bereaved persons, with 620 and 1667 bereaved diagnosed in the UK and Denmark respectively over the 20 year period, compared with 6430 and 16,166 non-bereaved.

Angel Wong, lead author from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: "Many factors can influence melanoma survival. Our work suggests that melanoma may take longer to detect in bereaved people, potentially because partners play an important role in spotting early signs of skin cancer.

"Support for recently bereaved people, including showing how to properly check their skin, could be vital for early detection of skin cancer, and thus improved survival."

Dr Walayat Hussain of the British Association of Dermatologists said that detecting melanoma early can greatly improve survival and partners are key to this.

“Those without a partner should be vigilant in checking their skin, particularly in hard to reach locations such as the back, scalp, and ears,” he said. "Skin cancer is a disease which is most common in older people, who are also most likely to be bereaved, so targeting skin checking advice at this group should be a priority."

Wong A, Frøslev T, Dearing L et al. The association between partner bereavement and melanoma: cohort studies in the UK and Denmark. British Journal of Dermatology 5 March 2020.

Tags: Cancer | Dermatology | Europe | UK News

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