Can melanoma worsen once you become pregnant? This is a connection that had previously always lingered in my mind before, and I was at a loss to draw that link - until a small case study revealed my suspicions to be accurate. That study was just the first to start addressing it, but over the last year, more and more have emerged to back up this link.
In a study of 462 female patients younger than 50 years old diagnosed with melanoma between 1988 and 2012, risk factors and outcomes monitored for two years showed that patients in the youngest category (below 19 years old) were less likely to have melanoma than those in other age categories. However, the 40 - 49 year old age group had higher recurrence rates, metastatic disease and death rates. Moreover, the same rung true for women diagnosed with melanoma while pregnant, or within one year following delivery.
It’s sad to see but important to be aware of - my practice unfortunately had an experience about three years ago with a patient who had a superficial melanoma she did not take care of and ended up passing away. That’s when ended up doing more research into the connection between pregnancy and melanoma, and the evidence speaks for itself: melanoma can worsen once you’re pregnant, and will be doubly more aggressive in women who are older than 40 years old.
So what can you do to stay safe? Ensure you get routine skin exams both before and after you’re pregnant, and be vigilant in knowing the risk of melanoma worsening after pregnancy if you have already been diagnosed. Want to learn more about these risks? Take a look here.