Posts for tag: malignant melanoma

                The basal cell carcinoma is the most common of all skin cancers,accounting for 80 percent of

non-melanoma skin cancers while the squamous cell carcinoma accounts for nearly 20 percent. 

And,non-melanoma skin cancers are more common in men with squamous cell carcinoma affecting

2 to 3 times as many men as women  while basal cell carcinoma occurs at a rate of 1 1/2 times of

men to women.

                 The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2019 an approximate 57,000 cases of

melanoma will be diagnosed in men and about 39,000 cases in women.And,the incidence of

melanoma is higher among men across most racial/ethnic populations.

                Since most cases of skin cancer link to sun exposure ,it naturally follows that the

incidence increases with age.And,the incidence of melanoma  increases after age 19 and peaks

for individuals older than 85. between 2011 and 2015 the median age for the diagnosis of melanoma

was 64.

               In addition, the incidence of specific types of skin cancer varies according to race and

ethnicity.Consequently, the risk is more than 20 times higher for the white population than for people

with darker skin such as black,American Indian/Alaskan natives,Hispanic and Asian/pacific islander populations.

And,this is due to the photoprotection provided by increased melanin in the epidermis(outer skin layer) 

of individuals with darker skin,which can filter twice as much  UV radiation as the epidermis of white 


              As is true for the white population,basal cell carcinoma is the most common skin cancer  among

Hispanic and Asian populations . In contrast,squamous cell carcinoma is the most common skin cancer

in the black population and melanoma is the third most common skin cancer  among all racial/ethnic


             And, the highest rate of melanoma is found amiong white men and the lowest is among black

women. Although melanoma is predominate among white men compared to white women,the incidence

of melanoma in men and women is similar in black,Hispanic, and Asian/pacific islander population.

            In addition to sun exposure and radiation exposure,the risk of skin cancer is also inluenced

by co-morbid or other conditions such as non-healing ulcers and tatoos as well as arsenic in the

well water . People whose immune systems are compromised either

by cancer or the drugs used to treat it are also at increased risk for skin cancer.

            Also, skin cancer can develop in 30 to 70 % of  organ transplant patients-with a 100 fold

increase for squamous cell carcinoma ,a 24 fold increase for a very dangerous type of skin cancer

called merkel cell carcinoma(please see my previous articles on merkel cell carcinoma),a six fold

increase for basal cell carcinoma and a two fold increased risk for melanoma.

Please see my previous article entitled: Skin Cancer-not just from the sun.

           In addition, the prevalence of skin cancers is also high among individuals infected witrh

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and lesions in this population tend to be more aggressive.

Also,  there is a high risk of squamous cell carcinoma  associated with seropositivity  for the

human papilloma virus (HPV)  type 16 and 18 but a direct causal relationship has not been


           Individuals with a history of skin cancer are at increased risk for another skin cancer and

people living in areas where the sun's rays are most intense such as the equator have an

increased risk for melanoma skin cancer.


          I saw a new patient in my office this week who came in for another problem but complied

with my request to take his shirt off when I promptly diagnosed a melanoma on his back.

         A few years ago I diagnosedf 6  patients with  melanomas in about 6 months.

        In conclusion, if you see a change in the size,shape,color or behavior of spots on your

skin,get checked by your healthcare provider.









                    As we age many of us (depending on our genetic composition) notice the growth of pigmented

or tan,waxy,rough skin growths which appear to be mostly on the surface of the skin or almost "stuck on."

These skin growths or lesions are called seborrheic keratoses.

                  In my practice I have seen patients with just one or two of these growths and patients with

literally dozens of them. And,when they ask me where they have come from,my answer is almost always:

"Momie and Daddie."

                And,research indicates that only about 1 % of this "benign" type undergoes malignant

transformation to a form of skin cancer-especially,the squamous cell carcinoma.

              However,the abrupt or sudden eruption of multiple seborrheic keratoses that rapidly increase

in size and number,often itchy, can be caused by an associated internal cancer-mostly a gastrointestinal

adenocarcinoma. This is called the sign of Leser-Trelat and is called a paraneoplastic syndrome

since  the skin manifestations of the multiple seborrheic keratoses is thought to be mediated by

hormones secreted by the internal cancer or by the body's immune response against the tumor.

              Although,some question that this abrupt or sudden onset of seborrheic keratoses is a sign of

internal cancer since seborrheic keratoses and cancer are common findings in the elderly anyway.

            In addition,it is encumbent on any clinician ,especially when examining a patient with

multiple seborrheic keratoses,not to do a cursory exam since a malignant  melanoma skin cancer(which can

look very much like a seborrheic keratosis) could be easily missed in such a patient.

          Again,the bottom line is to see your clinician for regular skin exams and especially if

you notice any change in size,color,shape or behavior of any skin lesion.





                         We are on the threshold of expanded use of onycolytic viruses for a number of 

malignancies including malignant melanoma. An oncolytic virus is a virus that preferentially

infects and kills tumor cells.

                        The drug Talimogene laherparepvec (TVEC) is a type one herpes simplex virus

(HSB) genetically modified to preferentially replicate in the tumor cells of malignant melanoma.

                        As the infected cancer cells are destroyed by the virus,,the virus releases new

infectious virus particles called virions to help destroy the remaining tumor.

                       Oncolytic viruses are thought not only to cause direct destruction of the tumor

cells,but also to stimulate host antitumor immune responses.

                      In addition,researchers are now using a modified poliovirus to unleash the

body's ability to fight cancer.

                     Also,these cancer killing viruses may be utilized for a number of malignancies 

including a type of brain cancer called glioblastoma,a blood cancer called multiple myeloma,

a cancer of the lining of the lung cavity called mesothelioma,and carcinomas of the breast,

lung,prostate,kidney,liver,pancreas,bladder,ovary and head and neck.

                  Only time and additional research will tell if these oncolytic viruses will

increase cancer patient survival  time or cure rates.



By Robert J Weiss, M.D.,FAAD
March 02, 2018
Category: Uncategorized

            Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a very aggressive skin cancer(please see my two previous blogs:

"Merkel Cell Carcinoma,"and Merkel cell carcinoma-a blood test to predict spread" posted on 04/13/2014.

           The incidence of MCC has increased markedly by 95 % during the past decade as compared to

malignant melanoma (57 %) and all solid tumors (15 %).

          Current estimates are for about 2500 new cases in the USA yearly and increase to 3250 cases

annually by 2025. Much of this increase is attributed to an older population,especially the aging of the

Baby Boomers.

          MCC is not only very prone to spread internally(ie,metastasize) but can be very difficult to diagnose

even by astute clinicians since it can appear simply as a firm red,purple or even skin-colored lump or

bump which could easily be mistaken for a cyst or blocked pore or hair follicle.

          Merkel cell carcinoma is caused in part by exposure to the sun and is found on the head or

neck in about 50 % of cases and on the extremities in about 40 % of patients.

         And, merkel cell carcinoma is aggressive and has a strong tendency to recur,to spread

to regional lymph nodes  and to metastasize.

           So,early detection is vital since when caught early the chance of cure increases dramatically

and is better than 90 %.

           An exciting new development in the treatment of metastatic MCC is the first FDA approved

treatment for adults and pediatric patients 12 years of age and older,including those who have not

yet received chemotherapy. 

           The medication called Avelumab is another advance in cancer treatments called biologics

or. monoclonal antibodies which help the body's immune system to fight the cancer.





            Each year in the U.S. over 5.4 million cases of nonmelanoma skin cancer(NMSC) are treated in more than

3.3 million people.

           Each year there are more cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast,prostate,                                             

lung and colon and that over the past  3 decades more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined.

           According to the statistics basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form, of skin cance ( with more

than 4 million cases diagnosed in the U.S. annually,while squamous cell carcinoma( SCC) is the second most common

form-with more than 1 million cases diagnosed every year.

          However, I should like to point out that in my many years of practice,SCC has been far and away the most

common type of skin cancer diagnosed. And,in my opinion, SCC is harder to diagnose than BCC since it often

appears simply like dry skin areas and is easy to miss-unlike BCC which,in spite of the fact that there are several

different types,is easier to diagnose in my opinion.

         While actinic keratosis is the most common pre-cancerous skin lesion,about 90 % of NMSC are associated

with UV radiation from the sun. Other causes of skin cancer include  medical radiation ,chemotherapy (especially in already

immunosuppressed individuals suffering from internal cancer),non-healing ulcers,sores,vaccination marks and tatoos.

In addition,people drinking well water contaminated with arsenic from fertilizers used in sod farms,etc. are prone to

squamous cell carcinomas and if present in non-sun exposed areas of the skin can be more likely to spread


          Also, people who have had organ transplants have an incidence of squamous cell carcinoma about

100 X more than the general public-possibly due to the anti-rejection drugs (which depress the immune system)

they must take to prevent their body from attacking the  the organ transplant.

            One person dies of melanoma skin cancer every 54 minutes and that an estimated 87,000 + new cases of melanoma

will be diagnosed in the 2017.And, that an estimated  9700 + will die of melanoma in 2017-the vast majority of which

are caused by the sun and that the risk of melanoma doubles if he or she has had more than 5 sunburns.

            And if you want to hear something really scarey,listen up: people who first use a tanning bed before age 35

increase their risk for melanoma by 75 %.

           In 2016 I diagnosed several people with malignant melanoma  over a six month period. My experience in

both internal medicine and dermatology over many years has been how certain diagnoses occur in clusters.

I could never figure out how as a young doctor working many a night in emergency rooms that one evening

everyone seemed to have chest pain,the next night breathing difficulty due to pulmonary problems,the next

night everyone needed sutures,the next night was pediatric night and on and on-almost as if there was a sign over the

emergency room entrance. 

           Even though I may not see a patient with malignant melanoma in many months,I know that if one

comes in,there will be at least 2 more in the near future since from my personal experience things seem to

always occur at least in 3's.

           It is also interesting to note that women aged 49 and under have a higher probability of developing

melanoma tha any other cancer except breast and thyroid cancer.

          And,it is very important to note that in darker skinned people such as blacks,Asians,Filipinos,Indonesians

and native Hawaiians ,melanomas are more likely to occur on non-sun exposed areas such as the ano-genital

area,palms of the hands,soles of the feet,mucous membranes and fingernail and toenail areas. Therefore,it is

encumbent on the clinician to examine these areas.

          And,SCC,the most common skin cancer in black and Asian peoples,tends to be more aggressive

(perhaps,because of delayed diagnosis in non-sun exposed areas) in black people with a 20 to 40 % chance

of metastasis(spreading internally).

         And,although malignant melanoma accounts for only up to 3 percent of all pediatric cancers,its treatment

is often delayed due to misdiagnosis of pigmented lesions,which occurs up to 40 percent of the time.Parents

should ask their child's pediatrician for a sunscreen SPF recommendation.

         In conclusion, regular use of a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 applied at least 30 minutes before

exposure and reapplied after bathing and at least every 2 hours while avoiding excessive sun exposure

during the heat of the day 10 AM-4 PM can markedly cut the risk of skin cancer and show 24 percent less

skin aging than those who do not use sunscreens daily.

        Also,one should get regular skin exams and check their own skin on a regular basis and report any 

changes to their clinician.