A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology showed worse prognoses and outcomes for women with a pregnancy-associated melanoma, compared with a non-pregnant women.
After adjusting for age, tumour location, and stage, women diagnosed with malignant melanoma during their pregnancy or within 1 year of giving birth were 5.1 times as likely to die, 6.9 times as likely to experience metastasis, and 9.2 times more likely to have a recurrence.
The researchers believe pregnancy hormones may fuel the cancer.
The case-control study used a large clinical database of electronic medical records to collect detailed data of cutaneous melanomas developing in 462 women aged 49 years or younger. All female patients with a biopsy-proven diagnosis of melanoma between 1988 and 2012 were included in the study, while patients with a follow-up of less than 2 years were excluded.
"We saw significant, worse prognoses and outcomes for women with a pregnancy-associated melanoma, compared with a control group of non-pregnant women," said Brian Gastman, MD, Cleveland Clinic's Dermatology & Plastic Surgery Institute, Cleveland, Ohio.
"The rate of metastasis, recurrence and death in our findings were astounding -- as the rates were measurably higher in women who were diagnosed with melanoma while pregnant, or within one year after delivery."
The study is a stark reminder of the importance of skin cancer prevention. The rates of melanoma have been rising for at least 30 years, and rates in the United States have doubled from 1982 to 2011.
According to the authors, women aged younger than 50 years, particularly those who are pregnant and at higher risk of developing melanoma, should be extra-vigilant in monitoring changing skin lesions and maintaining diligent dermatological follow-up.