Aspirin, a derivative of tree bark, has in one form or another been used to reduce pain in people for millennia. More recently, medical science has learned of its ability to help prevent heart attacks and ward off some cancers. However, new research has revealed an awful side-effect for men who take aspirin on a regular basis.
While melanoma doesn’t discriminate based on gender, aspirin evidently does. A study referenced within the Oncology Nurse Advisor article cited below indicates that a consistent use of aspirin potentially doubles the odds of developing melanoma in the men who do so. The research also showed that the practice had no perceivable impact on women. While there are theories as to why that might be, nothing has yet been proven.
To obtain this information, “researchers accessed the Northwestern Medicine Enterprise Data Warehouse to evaluate the health outcomes of nearly 200,000 patients from metropolitan Chicago and the surrounding areas. Eligible patients were between the ages of 18 and 89, had no previous history of melanoma, and had follow-up data of at least 5 years after continuous once-daily aspirin use for 1 year or more. Of the study participants chronically exposed to aspirin, 26 (2.2%) of 1187 developed melanoma. Contrarily, of the nearly 194,000 patients in the study who did not take aspirin, only 1675 (0.86%) developed melanoma.”
A Slippery Slope
Although this new data may be alarming, if you’ve been advised to consume aspirin regularly, please continue to do so. If you have concerns, instead of stopping the medication you should discuss them directly with your dermatologist and doctor. Only a trained medical professional is qualified to determine the best course of action for his or her patient.
Regardless of what medication you’ve been prescribed (if any), it’s still vital to take the proper precautions to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful UV (ultraviolet) rays and to perform monthly skin self-examinations.
Is a Daily Aspirin Regimen a New Melanoma Risk for Men?
Additional source articles: OncologyNurseAdvisor.com, CNN.com, ScienceDaily.com, Allure.com
The development of the skin melanoma we are the most familiar with is usually attributed to the harmful effects of the sun’s UV rays. And with good reason. Those dangerous rays are its primary cause; and by a large margin.
However, not every type of melanoma’s origins fall under the purview of our sun. Ocular melanoma, an affliction almost always confined to adults, is one such exception. Although, as with skin melanoma, pale-toned (and blue-eyed) individuals, and those with atypical mole syndrome, are its most frequent victims.
What is Ocular Melanoma?
Ocular melanoma (Officially, Uveal melanoma) is a rare form of eye cancer. It’s a belligerent cancer that can develop anywhere within a trio of sections inside the eye, (Iris, ciliary body, choroid or posterior uvea). Except for iris melanoma it’s difficult to detect and, unless highly-advanced, it’s usually painless.
This picture shows an example of Ocular Melanoma in the iris:
Unfortunately, unlike its skin melanoma cousin, most ocular melanomas don’t give advanced notice of their arrivals.
Medical science has yet to peg down the reason(s) for ocular melanoma’s existence; nor the catalyst(s) that trigger it. And even though new techniques are continually being developed to fight it, it will still become fatal to half of those whom it impacts.
Diagnosing Ocular Melanoma
Of the three sections of the eye mentioned above, only melanoma of the iris can be self-detected. The other types can be detected by a routine eye exam. As a result, ophthalmologists recommend scheduling an eye exam annually.
As eyes are very sensitive areas, it’s understandable that, initially, many people may find the idea of an ocular melanoma exam undesirable. However, there is no need for that.
Please note that (excluding the need for a biopsy, or an injection of highlighting dye into the arm) nearly all the tools an ophthalmologist has at his or her disposal for use in diagnosing this disease are non-invasive. Biopsies are very uncommon and rarely ordered.
A diagram of the eye:
*Additional source articles: Ocularmelanoma.org, Cancer.org, Aao.org
In-Situ (In place) Melanoma is also known as Stage 0 Melanoma and Hutchinson’s melanotic freckle. The latter is in honor of Sir John Hutchinson, who provided its inaugural description in the late 19th century.
While our fervent goal is to continually help prevent people from developing melanoma, if you are diagnosed with it, this is the type you’d prefer. As with burns (1st, 2nd, 3rd degree) and golf scores, with melanoma the lower number you have the better.
What are In-Situ Melanomas?
In-Situ are radial melanomas that stay within the skin’s thin top layer. Unlike their far more dangerous cousins, they don’t penetrate the epidermis and spread throughout the body. They don’t move. Hence, in place.
They’re also very easy to see, and have nearly a 100% cure rate. Typically, a doctor simply removes them right in his or her office. And that’s that.
These are two examples of In-Situ Melanomas:
Lentigo Maligna and Lentigo Maligna Melanoma
Lentigo Maligna is a very slow-growing (up to 20 years) In-Situ melanoma. It develops most often in older people, and within those whose vocations require a significant amount of time spent outdoors. As its primary cause is sun exposure, “Lentigos” usually occur on the areas of skin that are most prone to be impacted by the sun’s harmful UV rays. These include- but are certainly not limited to -the hands, neck and face.
Of all the In-Situ varieties, Lentigo Maligna is the least likely to convert to an aggressive, potentially lethal skin cancer. If it does however, it becomes Lentigo Maligna Melanoma. If Lentigos are allowed to reach this invasive melanoma stage, the matter grows much more serious.
Unlike the aforementioned Lentigo Maligna, Lentigo Maligna Melanoma is not a simple out-patient procedure. It requires surgery during which the surgeon will remove the affected skin entirely; along with a portion of the healthy skin that surrounds it. How it’s treated is based on what the case’s pathologist determines.
From left to right the pictures are examples of Lentigo, Lentigo Maligna and Lentigo Maligna Melanoma:
While we may sound like a broken record at times, these, along with so many other skin cancer and sun skin damage issues, can be avoided merely by practicing sun-safety and monthly self-examination. Please, do it for your own sake; and for the sake of those who care about you.
Additional sources: Aimatmelanoma.org, emedicine.medscape.com, Dermnetnz.org (New Zealand)In-Situ Melanoma
Melanoma is truly an awful disease. Whether an afflicted adult ultimately survives an advanced case on not, he or she will suffer significant physical and emotional trauma throughout the entire exhaustive process. Just imagine a child having to experience that. Children, who are just getting started in the world, should never have to suddenly face their own mortality.
Unfortunately, melanoma doesn’t care. And that, along with a greater need for skin cancer awareness and education, is why we continue to lose countless brave pre-teens and adolescents. Among them are the late Jillian Beach, 15 and Bethany Cobb, 11.
It’s our determined mission to do everything possible to help prevent children and their families from having to deal with this; the worst form of skin cancer. With that in mind..
Some Information on Childhood Melanoma
Melanoma can develop on anyone at any age, but there are some differences in the disease between adults and juveniles. To be more specific, we’ll turn to these quotes from the cited Dermnet of New Zealand material linked below:
Regarding children from birth up to age 10
“Superficial spreading melanoma is less common in younger children and melanoma has the ABCDE criteria in 40% of cases. Melanoma in young children is more commonly amelanotic (red coloured), nodular, and tends to be thicker at diagnosis than in older children and adults.” *
It’s also important to remember that melanoma may present itself as pink or flesh-colored. This can be deceiving when looking for darker-toned moles and blemishes on light skin.
Dermnet continues with youths 11 to 18
“Melanoma in older children appears similar to melanoma in adults; it presents as a growing lesion that looks different from the child’s other lesions. Most are pigmented. About 60% have the ABCDE criteria…”*
We want to add that 40% is the rarer, yet more lethal, nodular melanoma. To learn more about that version, please click here.
Once melanoma is diagnosed, its potential treatment is chosen by doctors from the same pool of options used for anyone; regardless of age.
Please note that within the skin cancer community, “ABCDE” is a linguistic device used to help people remember what to look for in moles and other skin blemishes. The letters stand for the following: A= Asymmetry, B= Border, C= Color, D= Diameter, E= Evolving.
We’ve saved perhaps the most important item for last, as that way it’s more likely to be remembered. It’s so vital because everything you’ve read above can be completely avoided- if you just keep this one simple thing in mind:
The cure rate for melanoma detected early enough hovers around 100%.
In those instances, the initial (or follow-up) biopsy, (a quick procedure to remove the impacted tissue performed right in a doctor’s office) is actually the cure itself.
That means there would be no need at all for chemotherapy or radiation treatments.
In the coming weeks, you can expect to read more from us on melanoma right here on this blog. We ask only that you apply what you learn, and spread the information on to others.
It is no understatement to that if you do, you could very easily save a life.
Additional Sources: Dermnet of New Zealand