Even Thin Melanomas Can Be Fatal

Prof. David Whiteman Group leader, Cancer Control Group QIMR Berghofer Herston, QueenslandMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Prof. David Whiteman
Group leader, Cancer Control Group
QIMR Berghofer
Herston, Queensland


Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Whiteman: Mortality from melanoma has continued to rise in Queensland, Australia, the jurisdiction with the world’s highest incidence of this disease. We analysed more than 4000 deaths from melanoma over the last 2 decades, and calculated mortality rates according the thickness of the primary lesion.

Medical Research: What was most surprising about the results?

Dr. Whiteman: We found that, contrary to widespread perception, thin melanomas (i.e. those with a good prognosis) actually accounted for more deaths overall than thick melanomas. This reflects the huge increases in the incidence of thin melanomas in Queensland, so that even though the individual case fatality rates for thin melanomas are relatively low, the frequency of these thin cancers means that they contribute to many deaths.

Dr. Whiteman: These findings serve to remind us that, as a strategy to reduce melanoma mortality, early detection of melanoma has its limits. These data confirm that even thin melanomas (i.e. those detected early) contribute to substantial numbers of deaths from melanoma. A comprehensive melanoma control strategy must also include primary prevention advice to reduce the incidence of melanomas.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Whiteman: We need to identify the genetic and molecular characteristics of those thin melanomas that are destined to metastasize, as these need to be targeted for higher surveillance and new therapeutic approaches.


More people die from thin melanomas (<1mm) than thick melanomas (>4mm) in Queensland, Australia
David C Whiteman, Peter D Baade & Catherine M Olsen

Journal of Investigative Dermatology doi:10.1038/jid.2014.452












Last Updated on October 21, 2014 by Marie Benz MD FAAD