Skin cancer above the neck is more likely to spread throughout the body, warns a new study.
The most dangerous type of skin cancer – malignant melanoma – was nine times more likely to spread in study patients who had the disease above the neck, according to the research.
Once melanomahas spread deeper into the skin or other parts of the body, it becomes more difficult to treat and can be deadly.
Study lead researcher Dr Mohammed Al Abadie, of New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton, warned that melanoma is becoming more common, especially in young people.
He added: “In this study, we have reviewed new malignant melanoma diagnoses to see which ones are more likely to metastasise in terms of location.
“Understanding more about these locations also may help to determine and manage a patient’s survival.”
Over six months, the research team studied 45 patients with new diagnoses to find out which types of melanoma spread.
They were split into two groups – one with above neck malignant melanoma patients and the other with below neck malignant melanoma.
Researchers used CT scans to spot the cancer and whether it had spread.
Patients who had stage T2a or more disease – which is when the melanoma is at least 1mm thick – were also offered a biopsy to investigate the disease further.
The cancer had not spread in any of the 37 below neck patients, and only one was diagnosed with positive lymph nodes, accounting for less than three per cent of the group.
But when it came to the eight above neck NN patients, the cancer had spread in two (25 per cent) of them who also developed positive nodes.
Dr Abadie added: “Melanomas often have mutations in the ‘BRAF V600’ gene.
“These changes affect the production of the BRAF protein and make cells grow faster.
“A mutation in the gene encoding BRAF has been well demonstrated to occur in association with malignant melanoma, and this has revolutionised further management in patients with advanced disease.”
The findings were presented today at the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (EADV) congress in Madrid, Spain.