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Rapid diagnosis, treatment crucial to melanoma survival

Fast diagnosis and treatment of melanoma can significantly increase chances of survival, research shows

Fast diagnosis and treatment can significantly increase chances of survival for melanoma patients, research shows.

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One in every three cancers diagnosed is a skin cancer, and melanoma rates are on the rise with 132,000 cases globally each year, according to the World Health Organization.

Researchers from Cleveland Clinic in the US found that a four-month delay in treatment can increase mortality rates by around 40% compared with patients treated within one month.

The research indicates that the sooner patients are treated the better their chance of survival, particularly for stage 1 melanoma.

Game changer

Using the US National Cancer Database, the Cleveland Clinic team studied 153,218 adult patients diagnosed with stages 1 to 3 melanoma from 2004 to 2012.

They found overall survival decreased in patients waiting longer than 90 days for surgical treatment, regardless of stage. In addition, a delay in surgery beyond the first 29 days negatively affected overall survival for stage 1 melanoma, though not for stages 2 or 3.

Lead researcher Brian Gastman said: 'We saw significantly worse prognoses and outcomes for those surgically treated after 30 days of stage 1 melanoma diagnosis. Knowing for certain that a more expedient time to surgery to remove an early melanoma improves the chances of survival is a game changer in treating this life-threatening skin cancer.'

The researchers say the study is a stark reminder of the importance of detecting skin cancer early, at a time when it is most treatable.

Gastman B et al (2017) Determination of the impact of melanoma surgical timing on survival using the National Cancer Database. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

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