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Cancer

13 April 2020

Why does death risk from melanoma rise after loss of spouse or partner?

Support for recently bereaved people, including showing how to properly check their skin, could be vital for early detection of skin cancer, and thus improved survival.

People whose spouse or partner has died are less likely to be diagnosed with melanoma, but more likely to die from it, a new study says.

An analysis of data from population-based studies conducted in the United Kingdom and Denmark between 1997 and 2017 found that people who had lost a spouse or partner were 12% less likely to be diagnosed with melanoma than others.

But bereaved people with the most serious form of skin cancer were 17% more likely to die from it than others.

"Many factors can influence melanoma survival. Our work suggests that melanoma may take longer to detect in bereaved people, potentially because partners play an important role in spotting early signs of skin cancer," said lead author Angel Wong, a research fellow at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Improved survival

Delayed detection could stall diagnosis until the cancer has progressed to later stages, when it's typically more aggressive and harder to treat.

"Support for recently bereaved people, including showing how to properly check their skin, could be vital for early detection of skin cancer, and thus improved survival," Wong said in a school news release.

The authors suggested that family members or caregivers do skin checks for bereaved people, and that health care providers step up their examinations as well.

The findings were published in the British Journal of Dermatology.

"Those without a partner should be vigilant in checking their skin, particularly in hard-to-reach locations such as the back, scalp, and ears," commented Dr Walayat Hussain of the British Association of Dermatologists.

"Skin cancer is a disease which is most common in older people, who are also most likely to be bereaved, so targeting skin checking advice at this group should be a priority," Hussain said in the release.

Image credit: iStock
 

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