Health not age key to melanoma spread

Aug. 31, 2011 at 3:18 PM
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ANN ARBOR, Mich., Aug. 31 (UPI) -- Patients' underlying health -- good or bad -- is linked to the outcomes for melanoma, not age, U.S. researchers suggest.

Lead author Dr. Michael S. Sabel, associate professor of surgery at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, found patients with decreased core muscle density were more likely to see their cancer spread to distant parts of the body. The findings may also support the idea that patients whose systems are less able to mount a response may be more prone to the spread of cancer, Sabel said.

The researchers looked at 101 patients treated for stage III melanoma at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center and examined CT scans for each patient to measure the area and density of a core muscle called the psoas, which runs along both sides of the spine.

The study, published online in the Annals of Surgical Oncology, found patients with lower muscle density had significantly higher rates of their cancer returning -- regardless of factors such as the size of the tumor or the patient's age. Every 10 units of decreased muscle density translated to a 28 percent increase in recurrence. In addition, frailer patients had more complications from surgery to remove their cancerous lymph nodes, the study said.

Previous research linked older age to worse outcomes in melanoma, but the new results distinguish that it's the underlying vitality of the patient, not age, that really matters, the researchers said

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