Melanoma linked to risk of prostate cancer

Sarah Wiedersehn

In a blow to men who have had melanoma, a study has found survivors of the deadly skin cancer have an increased risk of developing prostate cancer.

Researchers at Cancer Council NSW looked at all prostate cancer and melanoma diagnoses between 1972 and 2008.

There were nearly 144,000 men diagnosed with either cancer over the study period.

Of the men first diagnosed with melanoma, 2114 were subsequently diagnosed with prostate cancer.

"This means that men with a previous diagnosis of melanoma are at a 25 per cent increased risk of a prostate cancer diagnosis," lead researcher Dr Visalini Nair-Shalliker said.

The study supports emerging research that suggests too much exposure to harmful UV may also be a risk factor for prostate cancer, not just melanoma, Dr Nair-Shalliker said.

"Our results suggest that sun exposure may also play a role in prostate cancer, and that protecting yourself from the sun is therefore all the more important," she said.

"Now we are trying to understand what is it about sun that may affect melanoma that may also affect prostate cancer," Dr Nair-Shalliker said.

More frequent trips to the doctor as a result of the initial melanoma diagnosis may be another possible explanation for the increased risk, she noted.

"Men with a previous melanoma diagnosis are more likely to have more regular interactions with their GP and therefore may be more vigilant about their health - this may consequently increase the likelihood of detecting other diseases, including prostate cancer," Dr Nair-Shalliker said.

"Our findings raise the potential for GPs to discuss future prostate cancer risk with men newly diagnosed with melanoma."