People with fewer moles are at increased risk for aggressive melanoma than those with numerous moles, says a new study.
Researchers studied 281 patients with melanoma who visited a Boston hospital in 2013 and 2014. In those, 89 had 50 or more moles, whereas the remaining 192 had fewer than 50 moles.
The researchers found that the patients who had fewer than 50 moles tended to have thicker, more aggressive melanoma than those who had 50 or more moles. Though it is not clear, researchers said that people with more moles frequently underwent skin checkups to know whether they have melanoma. Therefore they were more aware about skin cancers than people with fewer moles.
Dr. Caroline C. Kim, a dermatologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School in Boston, said, "All skin cancers, including melanoma, are most treatable when they're detected early, so it's important to be aware of warning signs on your skin."
Kim said, "It is likely that the difference lies in different genetic mutations, which imply that different melanomas may have different aggressive potentials."
"It is also possible that there are differences in people's immune systems that affect both how many moles they have and the type of melanoma they may develop," she said.
According to American Cancer Institute survival rates vary greatly with the stage of melanoma. Although 98 percent of people diagnosed with localized melanoma survive at least five years, only 17 percent of those diagnosed with melanoma that has spread elsewhere in the body live that long.
"The new study reminds us that everyone needs to be alert for melanoma, whether they have many moles or just a few. People should examine themselves for signs of skin cancer, and bring any suspicious spots to a dermatologist's attention," Kim said.