Melanoma treatment: The sooner the better

Nov. 7, 2017—Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. But a new study links early treatment with higher survival rates. This is especially true for people with stage I melanoma.

Prompt treatment is key

The standard treatment for melanoma is surgery. But it can be delayed by things like surgeon or hospital availability.

Melanoma survival rates range from about 18 percent to 98 percent, according to the National Cancer Institute, and largely depend on whether the cancer has spread. Researchers wanted to find out how the time between diagnosis and treatment impacted these rates.

The study identified more than 153,000 adults with melanoma. They'd all been diagnosed between 2004 and 2012. Researchers noted the factors that can influence treatment and survival. These include age, other illnesses, insurance type and melanoma stage.

The researchers followed up with participants anywhere from 3 to 10 years after diagnosis. They found that treatment times for people with stage I melanoma were especially important. Those who waited longer than 29 days to get treatment had lower survival rates:

Time between diagnosis and treatment: Overall survival rate decreased by:
30 to 59 days 5 percent
60 to 89 days 16 percent
90 to 119 days 29 percent
Longer than 119 days 41 percent

The wait time wasn't as important for people with stage II or stage III melanoma. But prompt treatment of stage I melanoma can significantly help the cancer from progressing.

The information from this research can save lives. It can help people with stage 1 melanoma and their doctors to schedule prompt, effective treatment.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

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