Like some cancers, family history plays a part in risk for skin cancer. Li-Fen Chang L. Chang, MD, PhD, FACRO, Senior Medical Director for Radiation Oncology at Southern Ohio Medical Center, says everyone should be aware that family history is very important in determining risk for developing certain skin cancers.
“By accurately identifying a genetic predisposition for skin cancer it is possible to take steps to reduce the risk, detect it at an early stage and possibly prevent it,” Dr. Chang says. The number of melanoma cases diagnosed in the United States has risen annually, with more than 54,000 new cases diagnosed each year, and according to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, comprising nearly half of all cancers diagnosed.
Genetic testing for skin cancer is available at the SOMC Cancer Center. For more information on the process call Heather Ashley, 356-7490.
“Like all cancers, early detection is critical,” Dr. Chang explains. “When diagnosed at a localized stage, most cutaneous melanomas can be cured through surgical excision. However, once the tumor has metastasized the prognosis is poor.”
Approximately 10 percent of all melanoma cases are hereditary, approximately the same percentage of breast cancer that is hereditary. A gene known as p16 accounts for the majority of known genetic causes of inherited melanoma cases.
Some important facts from recent studies: individuals who carry inherited p16 mutations are at a 50 percent risk to develop melanoma by age 50 and a 76 percent risk to develop melanoma by age 80. In addition, some p16 mutation carriers have up to a 17 percent risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Melanoma associated with inherited p16 mutations develops at a significantly early age compared to the general population. The average age of diagnosis for mutation carriers in the United States is approximately 35 years compared to 57 years for sporadic melanoma patients.
Anyone to whom one of the following applies should consider a genetic evaluation by their doctor or specialist: two or more diagnoses of primary melanoma in an individual or family; melanoma and pancreatic cancer in an individual or family; or relatives of a patient with a confirmed p16 inherited mutation.
Also, anyone at greater risk should have a clinical examination each year, beginning at age 10; limit exposure to the sun or ultraviolet radiation (such as in some tanning beds); wear protective clothing outside and use a sun screen of at least SPF 15.