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Characteristics of Fast-Growing Skin Cancers

t the melanoma was removed as obtained from medical records, and the thickness of the tumor at the time of removal to estimate the approximate rate of growth. This method was doubled-checked by comparing the rate of growth with the tumor mitotic rate, or the rate at which the cancer cells multiply. Those tumors with a faster mitotic rate also had a faster rate of growth as determined by the researchers’ formula.

Approximately one-third of all the melanomas (141) grew less than .1 millimeters per month, another one-third (136) grew between .1 millimeters and .49 millimeters per month, and one-third grew by .5 millimeters or more per month. A high rate of growth was associated with tumor thickness, ulceration (formation of a break or sore on the skin), amelanosis (lack of pigment in the tumor), regular borders, elevation and symptoms. Faster-growing melanomas were more likely to occur in individuals 70 years or older, in men and in those with fewer moles and freckles. Factors that were not associated with the rate of growth were the number of atypical moles or solar lentigines (age spots or liver spots), history of sun damage or blistering sunburns, skin type, eye color, family or personal history of melanoma, and current or childhood sun exposure.

“In summary, this study provides descriptive data on the spectrum of melanoma rates of growth and insights into subgroups of patients with melanoma that are associated with rapid growth,” the authors conclude. “We propose that this information on melanoma rate of growth be incorporated into education programs for patients and health professionals.” Awareness of the clinical features of faster-growing melanomas could help ensure that aggressive cancers are diagnosed and treated quickly.



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