Study Finds Link Between Teenage Acne and Melanoma

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While there are hundreds of skin conditions that can require medical attention, most people have their first experiences with the field of dermatology because of one problem in particular: acne. As many as 85% of people will have acne at some point during their lifetime, making it the most common skin disorder in the world. The condition is especially common in teenagers, but acne can affect people of all ages. However, a recent study suggests that when we develop acne can increase our risk of developing other serious conditions, such as melanoma.Acne, especially in adolescence, is caused by hormonal imbalances that are also key components of several diseases. To test if a diagnosis of acne as a teenager might be linked to higher levels of hormone-related cancers, a research team from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston followed 99,128 female nurses who were participating in the Nurses’ Health Study for 20 years.

According to a study published in the journal Cancer, the researchers found that women with a history of severe teenage acne have an increased risk of developing melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer. Worryingly, this increased risk was present even after researchers adjusted for previously known risk factors. These findings were replicated in an independent melanoma case-control study, which involved 930 cases and 1,027 controls. In both studies, women with teenage acne were more likely to have moles, which drastically increase a person’s chances of developing melanoma.

In response to their findings, the research team has suggested that a history of teenage acne could be a new risk factor for melanoma. As a result, the group is calling for further investigation of the relationship between the two conditions. One of the factors that will likely be examined is the role of acne treatments: many products and procedures used to treat the condition have been shown to increase photo-sensitivity, which increases a person’s chances of sun damage. Like other skin cancers, melanoma is caused by sun exposure.

“This study shows an association between severe teenage acne in women and risk of melanoma later in life,” said Christopher Spock, MD at Water’s Edge Dermatology. “This may be important to tell your young female patients with acne to let them know that they could potentially benefit from skin cancer screening later in life. It is also a good opportunity to emphasize the importance of sun protection and sunscreen use with your acne patients.”

To prevent skin cancer, dermatologists typically recommend wearing and reapplying sunscreen every day. Patients should also conduct regular self-exams to detect any changes in the skin and schedule an appointment with a dermatologist if such changes are discovered.

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