Fast-growing skin cancers show common characteristics, Australian researchers have found. Skin cancers or melanomas are more likely to grow quickly if they are thicker, symmetrical, elevated and have regular borders or display symptoms, according to their study.
Wendy Liu of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in East Melbourne, Australia, and her colleagues looked at the melanoma growth rate of 222 male patients and 182 female patients with an average age of 54.The participants had their skin examined by a dermatologist, and they were interviewed as soon as possible after diagnosis about when they first noticed the spot on their skin.The researchers used the thickness of the tumour at the time of removal to estimate the rate of growth of the cancer.In the December issue of the Archives of Dermatology, the researchers said a rate of growth was linked to:- Tumour thickness.- Formation of a break or sore in the skin.- Lack of pigment in the tumour.- Regular borders.- Elevation.- Symptoms.Faster-growing melanomas were also more likely in people 70 years of age of older, in men and in those with fewer moles and freckles."We propose that this information on melanoma rate of growth be incorporated into education programs for patients and health professionals," the team said.By identifying faster-growing melanomas, it's hoped that aggressive cancers can be diagnosed and treated quickly.Death rates have declined since public education campaigns were launched on detecting and treating slow-growing melanomas, said Dr. Dan Lipsker of Clinique Dermatologique in France."The challenge in the coming years will be to do the same work for fast-growing tumours, and the work by Dr. Liu et al is a first step in that direction," Lipsker wrote in an accompanying editorial.(Source: Archives of Dermatology : Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre : December 2006.)