Parkinson’s & Melanoma Risk

June 7, 2011 by staff 

Parkinson's & Melanoma RiskParkinson’s & Melanoma Risk, People with Parkinson’s disease are at greater risk of developing melanoma, a potentially fatal form of skin cancer, a study shows. The new findings appear in the journal Neurology. About 1 million people in the U.S. have Parkinson’s disease, a progressive neurological disease characterized by tremor and difficulty with movement and walking.

The researchersanlyzed 12 studies of people with Parkinson’s disease and melanoma. These studies were carried out between 1965 and 2010, and most had fewer than 10 people with both conditions.

Compared to those without Parkinson’s disease, Parkinson’s men were twice as likely to develop melanoma. Women with Parkinson’s disease were 1.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with this form of skin cancer. Parkinson’s disease was not associated with an increased risk of other types of skin cancer.

Exactly how the two conditions are linked is not fully understood. Initially, there was some suspicion that a drug called levodopa for Parkinson’s may be responsible for this increased risk, but this has not been justified. There may be some genetic environmental risk factor that serves as a common denominator between the two conditions.

“More research is needed to examine the nature and mechanisms of this relationship in order to advance our understanding about the [cause] of both diseases,” conclude the researchers who were led by Honglei Chen, MD, PhD, the Institute National Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina

This increased risk must be placed in proper perspective, says Roy Alcalay, MD, assistant professor of neurology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York and adviser to the Parkinson’s disease Foundation.

“Melanoma is a rare cancer and Parkinson’s disease doubles the risk of what is still a very rare cancer,” he says. “Have your skin checked by a dermatologist every year.”

This advice is important for everyone – not just people with Parkinson’s disease. Other cancer screening tests are also important for people with Parkinson’s disease.

Andrew Feigin, MD, a research associate at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, NY, says new report highlights the importance of regular skin checks. He conducts studies of Parkinson’s disease, and says that annual screening examinations dematologic often part of the protocol.

“This study suggests that people with Parkinson’s disease need tests more often, but people with Parkinson’s disease should be more careful to adhere to recommended screening program,” he says.

“The message for anyone, especially for those who are at increased risk for melanoma, is going to take skin tests,” says Michael Greene, MD, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York

Know the symptoms of melanoma, “he says. Moles may be asymmetrical, have ragged, notched or blurred borders, and changes in the distribution of color, size or shape.

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