MONDAY, Feb. 21 (HealthDay News) -- The experience of surviving
a melanoma may weigh more heavily on the emotional lives of women
than men, a new study suggests.
"In clinical practice, this observation may imply that women need additional care, including follow-up and possibly counseling to optimally cope with their melanoma," the authors, led by Dr. Cynthia Holterhues of the department of dermatology at Erasmus MC in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, noted in a news release.
In some respects, however, the study found that female melanoma
survivors often took a more positive attitude compared to
For example, while female patients were more likely to say that
melanoma and the side effects of treatment interfered with their
quality of life, they were also more prone to say that the
experience had left them wiser and more spiritual.
Women who beat a melanoma were also more likely than their male
counterparts to go on to protect themselves and their families from
harmful UV radiation, the study found.
"Men might be less aware of general measures of sun protection and need education about these measures after treatment," the authors noted.
The study is published in the February issue of the
Archives of Dermatology.
According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, melanoma is
the most lethal of all skin cancers. However, the disease is
curable if caught early enough, before it has spread to the lymph
nodes and other tissues and organs.
According to the study authors, that means that 80 percent of
melanoma patients face a "relatively good" prognosis. But there's
one caveat: all melanoma survivors will face a lifetime risk for
With that in mind, the research team decided to conduct a survey
of more than 560 Dutch melanoma survivors to explore their
behaviors, attitudes and overall quality of life.
The participants, 62 percent of whom were women, averaged 57
years of age and had been diagnosed with a melanoma between 1998
and 2007. The survey focused on each person's reaction to their
illness up to 10 years after their diagnosis.
All patients were asked to complete both a health status
questionnaire as well as an "impact of cancer" survey, to assess
how their diagnosis affected them on all fronts: physical, mental,
social, existential and medical.
About 70 percent of the melanoma patients had received an stage
1 (early-stage) diagnosis. About a third also struggled with an
additional serious medical issue, such as high blood pressure or
Overall, the authors found that melanoma survivors did
not suffer from a worse health-related quality of life as
compared with the general Dutch population. In fact, there was a
non-significant trend suggesting that the cancer patients might be
in generally better physical health, overall, than people without
the skin cancer.
That said, among melanoma survivors women were found to have
more serious reactions to the experience than men. Female patients
were more likely to suffer from generally worse physical and mental
health, the authors noted, and additional indications pointed
towards their having a significantly poorer health-related quality
of life overall.
Compared with men, women also appeared to experience more pain,
numbness and/or itchiness as a side effect of treatment-related
However, women were also more likely to place an appropriate
focus on sun exposure than did men. Women tended to worry more than
men about how UV risk might affect them (66 percent vs. 45 percent,
respectively) and their family (49 percent vs. 32 percent).
This was associated with women tending to vacation less often
than men in sunny locales (67 percent vs. 56 percent), and to seek
shade and/or use sunscreen more often (67 percent vs. 48 percent)
and more times a day (64 percent vs. 25 percent).
Dr. Darrell. S. Rigel, past president of the American Academy of
Dermatology and currently a clinical professor of dermatology at
NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, said the findings came
as little surprise.
"You see differences even on the front end, when women are much more often than men to be the ones to uncover their melanoma," he noted. "Also, given the fact that melanoma is often a very young disease, with a mean age of 47, I can certainly see how the emotional implications for women would be greater in light of the fact that it often strikes when women have children, and would bring about obvious concerns for them about who's going to take care of their family if their disease returns."
"But on a positive note, I'd say that women are always the leaders when it comes to the health care of their family," Rigel added. "Not just for melanoma, but for everything. So, again, when it comes to prevention and subsequent behavioral changes that should clearly be taken to limit risk after treatment, women are just better, always, than men."
There's more on melanoma at the
U.S. National Cancer Institute.