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Melanoma and Parkinson’s disease

Posted Oct 12 2012 7:34am
Levodopa has been the  most common treatment for PD for nearly 45 years.   That’s a fairly longstanding amount of time..  Most people don’t even stay married that long anymore.  However, although it continues to be the most common treatment for so long, shortly after its inception into becoming the medicinal therapy for PD, an association between Levodopa and occurring and reoccurring malignant melanoma skin cancer became an issue with PD patients.

Studies have proven that there is a connection but not what was previously thought.  It isn’t that there is a greater risk of melanoma due to the consumption of Levodopa as your morning, noon, evening and bedtime cocktail, but because you happen to have that little monster known as Parkinson’s disease.  Even though it has been proven in several studies that the increasing number of cases is not because of any PD medication you may be taking, many patients refuse to take Levodopa because they still hold out for the notion that the two (taking the drug and getting melanoma) continue to be related.  After all, the Physicians Desk Reference still says so.

Melanoma is a “mole, sore, lump, or growth on the skin can be a sign of melanoma or other skin cancer. A sore or growth that bleeds, or changes in skin coloring may also be a sign of skin cancer,” according to the National Health Institute (NIH).  They give this guide (the ABC system) for determining whether you may have possible symptoms of this skin cancer.

Asymmetry: One half of the abnormal area is different from the other half.
Borders: The edges of the growth are irregular.
Color: Changes from one area to another, with shades of tan, brown, or black, and sometimes white, red, or blue or a mix of colors within one sore.
Diameter: The spot is usually (but not always) larger than 6 mm in diameter about the size of a pencil eraser.
Evolution: The mole keeps changing appearance.

The NIH also states that the “key to successfully treating melanoma is recognizing symptoms early. You might not notice a small spot if you don’t look carefully. Have yearly body checks by a dermatologist, and examine your skin once a month. Use a hand mirror to check hard-to-see places. Call your doctor if you notice anything unusual.”

So, if it comes down to skipping the Levodopa treatment for fear of developing or increasing your risk of melanoma, don’t.  It’s not the medications.  It’s the disease.  Just one more little curse of the little monster.  Here’s the good news…

Although people with Parkinson’s have an estimated 2- to 6-fold increased risk of melanoma, they also ave a reduced risk of most other types of cancer.  And melanoma is rare in the general population.The estimated lifetime melanoma rate for those with PD, according to another source , is therefore 4-12%.  Malignant melanoma is a curable disease if treated early. If left untreated, it is potentially fatal.

So go ahead and pop those pills, soak up the sun, but be reasonable and smart.  And whether you hvae PD or not   don’t forget the sunscreen.

Journeying with you,

Sherri

 

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