Sweden: Higher risk of death from skin cancer among single men

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silhoutte male snow landscape oncology network australia_800x500Single Swedish men who live alone less likely to survive malignant skin melanoma, according to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Single men of all ages are more likely to die of their disease.

Malignant melanoma is one of the fastest growing cancers in Sweden and is a growing health problem even among young individuals. Now Swedish researchers from Karolinska Institutet and Linköping University, for the first time studied the link between the prognosis of cutaneous melanoma and whether the patient lives alone or with a partner using the unique index data from the National Quality Register for cutaneous melanoma.

The current study is based on all melanoma diagnosed in Sweden between 1990 and 2007. The researchers examined the survival of more than 27,000 melanoma patients in relation to whether they lived alone or with a partner for men and women respectively. The analysis corrected for factors affecting the prognosis, such as the characteristics of the tumour, gender, educational level, and where the tumour was positioned.  

For thin cutaneous melanoma detected early, long-term survival in Sweden over 90 percent. For patients whose melanoma had already metastasised when diagnosed, the prognosis was much worse therefore researchers concluded early detection is essential for a good prognosis.

“We have been able to show what doctors working clinically with skin cancer patients suspected a long time, namely that single men with melanoma have a more advanced disease at diagnosis and thus a lower chance of surviving the disease. Our study shows that this applies to men of all ages, regardless of level of education and place of residence,” said the study lead author, Dr  Hanna Eriksson, from the Department of Oncology-Pathology, Karolinska Institutet.

Researchers also found that single elderly women have a more advanced disease at diagnosis, but for single women as a group there was no effect on survival.

“This points to a need for targeted interventions to drive earlier detection of melanoma in men and older individuals because early detection is critical to survival.” Dr Eriksson, echoing Australian models, suggested this patient population underwent “skin examinations in conjunction with other doctor visits or check-ups”.


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