Now that summer has passed, have you had your skin examined? Studies have shown that people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) may have an increased risk for melanoma, so skin screenings are extra-important. Take a look at recent research and get some tips on monitoring your moles and skin.
A 2017 Mayo Clinic study found that people with either PD or melanoma are four times as likely to receive a diagnosis of the other disease. The researchers say the PD drug levodopa (which some people believe may play a role in melanoma risk) is not likely a factor in the PD/melanoma connection, according to McKnight’s. They found that the majority of melanomas were diagnosed before the diagnosis or treatment of Parkinson’s disease, so taking levodopa doesn’t appear to be a risk factor.
Future research should focus on genes, immune responses and environmental exposures that could cause the relationship, the researchers say.
Know your “ABCDEs”
Check out the Skin Cancer Foundation’s “ABCDEs of Melanoma” (click here to see images of examples), and make an appointment right away if you spot any of these warning signs:
A = asymmetry. Malignant moles tend to have an odd shape.
B = border. The edges of an early melanoma may be uneven or “scalloped.”
C = color. Watch out for moles that are a spotty mix of colors (from tan to black, or even shades of red, white or blue).
D = diameter. Melanomas are usually larger in diameter than a pencil eraser (but may be smaller early on).
E = evolving. Keep an eye out for any changes in your moles, such as size, shape, color, elevation, or another trait, or new symptoms such as bleeding, itching or crusting.
Also, keep in mind these other risk factors for melanoma, according to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research:
- Ultraviolet (UV) light exposure (psst: use sunscreen and protective clothing)
- Caucasian race
- Older age
- Family history of melanoma or personal history of melanoma or other skin cancers
The Fox Foundation is currently funding studies on the PD/melanoma connection, including one exploring the role of alpha-synuclein (a sticky protein) in both conditions, and others examining the genes or gene mutations involved in the two conditions. Learn more here.
Some members report having both PD and melanoma. “I encourage everybody to go to a dermatologist, who has observed thousands of moles, on various skin types, and pay them to do a body scan,” says one member with PD and melanoma (fortunately, a biopsy showed his cancer had not spread). “Melanoma is not slow progressing like Parkinson’s.”