TUESDAY, Nov. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Men with prostate cancer may
face an increased risk for developing melanoma skin cancer down the
road, new research suggests.
The finding stems from a fresh analysis of data involving more
than 60,000 patients, prompted by the study team's observation that
roughly 18 percent of cancer diagnoses in the United States today
are actually secondary diseases occurring among survivors of prior
Study author Jiali Han, an associate professor in the department
of medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital/Harvard Medical School,
and colleagues published their results online Nov. 4 in the
Journal of Clinical Oncology. The research was funded by the
U.S. National Institutes of Health.
The authors noted that in the United States, prostate cancer is
currently the most common type of non-skin cancer diagnosis. To
explore a potential connection between a history of prostate cancer
and subsequent melanoma risk, they pored over two different sets of
The first concerned nearly 42,400 men (all white, aged between
40 and 75) who had participated in a study of health professionals
between 1986 and 2010. The second involved more than 18,600
patients who had been enrolled in a study of physicians' health
from 1982 to 1998.
Ultimately, the investigating team uncovered nearly 5,100
confirmed cases of prostate cancer among the pool of patients from
the health professionals study, alongside 539 instances of
After also reviewing prostate cancer and melanoma incidence
among the second pool of patients from the physicians health study,
the team concluded that men who had been diagnosed with prostate
cancer did indeed appear to face a higher risk for melanoma.
By contrast, although the team also observed a relationship
between prostate cancer and a higher risk of non-melanoma skin
cancer, that associated risk bump was deemed to be considerably
lower than the increased risk for melanoma itself.
For his part, Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the
American Cancer Society, suggested that the prostate
cancer-melanoma link, while intriguing, might potentially be
explained by the fact that all the study participants were not
run-of-the-mill members of the general population, but rather
"My first thought," he said, "was [that] physicians who are diagnosed with prostate cancer have a health-seeking behavior that means that they are more likely to be screened for melanoma and are therefore more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma."
However, the notion of a so-called "detection bias" seemed to be
undercut by the study team's additional observation: Although
prostate cancer was linked to a higher risk for melanoma, no other
type of non-skin cancer was found to be similarly associated with
So what might account for the connection between prostate cancer
and melanoma risk? The authors theorized that it might have
something to do with fluctuations in androgens, the male
reproductive system hormones, of which testosterone is the most
On the one hand, the team noted that prostate cancer is a
"well-recognized androgen-related cancer" and pointed to previous
research that has raised the prospect that melanoma is "associated"
with changes in androgen levels.
"It is possible that hormonal influence they mention holds true," Brawley said. "This would make me want to study a group of men who are taking androgen replacement."
In the end, Brawley described the effort as "a solid
epidemiologic study that does what good epidemiologic studies like
it should do: It justifies further study that might be more refined
Although the study found an association between having prostate
cancer and a higher risk of future melanoma in men, it did not
establish a cause-and-effect relationship.
For more on prostate cancer, visit the
U.S. National Institutes of Health.
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