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May 02, 2017 10:01 AM EDT

Pregnant Women and Melanoma: American College of Surgeons Study Says Pregnancy is Not A Risk Factor [VIDEO]

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Melanoma, or skin cancer, is a scary disease that is aggressive in nature and has the ability to spread to other organs. This is the most common type of cancer that arises during pregnancy. It is the cause of 31 percent of all malignancies among expectant mothers.

Because this is common in pregnancy, it is believed that carrying a baby has an adverse effect on the course of melanoma. This is said to increase the risk of its development, ability to spread in the body and recurrence.

Researchers from John Wayne Cancer Institute investigated whether this belief is true. They used the institution's melanoma database to analyze data on 2,025 women patients aged 18 to 50 who were diagnosed with stage I to IV melanoma and treated at the institute between 1971 and 2016.

In a press release, Dr. Mark Faries, study co-author, said that the incidence of melanoma in young women in their 20s and 30s has continued to increase fairly rapidly. This is the same group that would be affected by a pregnancy-associated melanoma and it's important to ensure that these women are getting the right screening and treatment.

The researchers identified 156 women who developed melanoma during pregnancy. They investigated patient factors like age, stage at diagnosis, histologic type, ulceration and Breslow thickness, which is a measurement of how deep the tumor is.

They also conducted several analyses to compare overall survival rates, disease-free survival rates and melanoma-specific survival rates of pregnant women to their non-pregnant counterparts diagnosed with melanoma. They discovered that patient factors were the same for pregnancy-associated melanomas and non-pregnancy associated melanomas.

There were no significant differences in Breslow thickness, histologic type or where the tumor first appeared in the skin. On average, there was also no difference in stage at diagnosis.

Moreover, the researchers found that recurrence rates were the same between the two groups. About 38 percent of pregnant women had a melanoma recurrence compared with 36 percent of their non-pregnant counterparts.

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