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Scalp, Neck Melanoma Most Dangerous

Armen Hareyan's picture

Melanoma on scalp or neck skin is twice as deadly as skin cancer on other parts of body.

A study by University of North Carolina School of Medicine examined of 51704 patients who were skin cancer diagnosed between 1992 and 2003. 43% of these patients had melanoma on arms or leg, 34% on trunk, 12% on ears or face, 6% on scalp of neck, and 4% on other parts of body. Although only 6% of patients have skin lesions on scalp and neck, they account 10% of all melanoma death cases.

Researchers calculated 5 and 10 year survival rates for patients and found that scalp or neck cancer patients have 83% survival rates for 5 years, compared with 92% in those with other parts of body affected by the disease. 10 year survival rates were 76% for those with cancer on scalp or neck, compared with 89%. Scalp or neck cancer also showed to be appearing in older patients (average age of 59), compared to 55 of those with skin lesions on other parts of body.

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Melanoma is the most rare and deadly type of skin cancer and it's the common killer among skin diseases. It is derived from pigment cells of the skin and spreads very quickly even when the initially occurred lesions are yet small. First signs of melanoma are change of mole shape or size, or appearance of new ones.

Melanoma is mainly caused by sunburns, especially in childhood. Those with lighter skin color are at higher risk for developing the disease. Skin cancer also affects those with a family history inclined to developing the disease.

Researchers are now looking for reasons of why scalp or neck forms of the disease are more deadly. Among these reasons scientists mention lymph nodes which are more affected in those with scalp or neck melanoma, leading to worsening of overall health. Another reason is the possible delay in diagnosis, because these parts of the body are hidden by hair and are difficult to detect. One more reason is that the disease in these patients can be easily spread to brain, making the cancer more aggressive.

Researchers can't yet clearly explain why melanoma on neck and scalp is more dangerous, but they urge public to be watchful of skin changes and protect it from excess sunlight exposure. Most of people carefully protect overall body from sunlight, but neck and scalp remain untreated, leading to increased risk for developing skin cancer. Researchers also urge health professionals and nurses to be more attentive to those parts of the body hidden by hair while screening for skin lesions.