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New pregnancy, genetic testing guidance added to AAD’s melanoma guidelines



Pregnancy does not necessarily increase a woman’s risk for melanoma, nor is it clear that becoming pregnant affects melanoma’s disease course, according to current evidence. This guidance is among several updates added to newly released guidelines for managing patients with primary cutaneous melanoma.

Dr. Susan Swetter, professor of dermatology and director of the pigmented lesion and melanoma program, Stanford (Calif.) University Medical Center and Cancer Institute

Dr. Susan Swetter

The American Academy of Dermatology, which formed a working group to develop the updated cutaneous melanoma (CM) treatment guidelines, also addressed the burgeoning field of genetic testing for cancer in the guidelines, which were published online on Nov. 1. Although there may be a hereditary component to some melanomas, genetic testing may not be appropriate for all patients, and any formal genetic testing should be carried out only after individualized education and counseling, according to the updates.

However, the guidelines make it clear that all patients whose family history includes melanoma should be counseled about their genetic risk.

As with genetic testing, counseling regarding future pregnancies for women with melanoma, or a history of melanoma, should be personalized and account for individual history and melanoma risk, according to the new guidelines. Since evidence is lacking that pregnancy affects the course of melanoma, physicians caring for pregnant women with melanoma should first look at patient and the disease characteristics. The addition of detailed guidance regarding pregnancy reflects research showing that CM is the most common malignancy seen in pregnancy, amounting to nearly one-third of the malignancies that arise in pregnancy. “Although the incidence of CM is generally higher in men, it is higher in younger women than in men, most notably during women’s reproductive years,” wrote Susan M. Swetter, MD, and her guideline coauthors.

The National Cancer Institute

“Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, and we hope these guidelines will help dermatologists and other physicians enhance their delivery of life-saving treatment to patients,” Dr. Swetter said in a press release announcing the guideline updates. Dr. Swetter, professor of dermatology and director of the pigmented lesion and melanoma program at Stanford (Calif.) University Medical Center and Cancer Institute, led the working group that developed the guidelines. “In order to provide the best possible resource for practitioners, we reviewed the latest scientific data and addressed certain topics that weren’t covered in the AAD’s previous melanoma guidelines,” she said.

A cornerstone of cutaneous melanoma care remains unchanged in the guidelines: Surgical excision is still the preferred method for treating melanoma. Adjuvant topical therapies or radiation, say the guidelines, can be considered as second-line care, but only in limited situations in which surgery is not feasible. Staged excision techniques, such as Mohs surgery, also may be considered for certain types of melanoma and in certain body areas.

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