Melanoma Is Deadlier for Pregnant Women, Says Frightening New Study

The deadliest form of skin cancer may be even deadlier during pregnancy.

pregnant woman on beach in sun hat and glasses
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During pregnancy, women with the deadliest form of skin cancer, melanoma, are more likely to die from it than those who aren't pregnant, according to a frightening new study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic looked at more than 460 women with melanoma under age 50, 41 of whom were pregnant at the time of diagnosis or less than a year postpartum, and determined:

  • Women are five times more likely not to survive if diagnosed with melanoma during pregnancy, or one year after giving birth.
  • Melanoma is seven times more likely to metastasize, or spread to other parts of the body, during pregnancy.
  • A woman who was diagnosed with melanoma during pregnancy has a nine fold increase in her risk of the cancer resurfacing within 7.5 years.

Even the study's lead author, Dr. Brian Gastman, admits to being shocked by the data. "[We] are not saying necessarily that [pregnant women] are more likely to get melanoma," he says, but "that melanoma tends to be virulent, [and] more aggressive" during pregnancy.

If you're like me, you're wondering why melanoma is deadlier for moms-to-be, and researchers say it may have something to do with hormonal changes, or a more compromised immune system, although they aren't certain. This study did not suggest a lack of viable treatment options for melanoma during pregnancy was to blame.

What we do know for sure, however, is that skin cancer is on the rise, and screening, early detection, and treatment are key. So whether you are pregnant or not, be sure to see your dermatologist regularly.

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.

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