A review published in the journal Neurology in 2011 suggested that people with Parkinson’s may be more likely to be diagnosed with the skin cancer melanoma but appeared to be at lower risk for most other types of cancer.
The research team at the National Institutes of Health in the US analysed the data from 12 small studies together. They found that people with Parkinson’s were being diagnosed with melanoma at twice the rate of people without the condition, but much larger and more detailed studies are required to confirm the relationship and to unravel the underlying cause of this increased risk for melanoma.
The Cancer Society reports that skin cancer is by far the most common cancer affecting New Zealanders, with the total number of new melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer cases amounting to around 80% of all new cancers each year.
According to Ministry of Health figures, in Canterbury there were roughly 52 males and 34 females per 100,000 population with melanomas registered in 2009.
As with other cancers, melanoma occurs most often in older people but it can also affect younger people.
Commenting on this review, the Parkinson’s UK director of Research and Development said that “by far and away the most common risk factor for developing melanoma is exposure to the sun – all of us should be cautious about our skin and aware of the dangers.”
Tips for Being Sun Smart
- Slip on sun protective clothing (shirt with a collar and long sleeves and trousers or long-legged shorts) and into shade whenever possible.
- Slop on SPF30+ sunscreen 15 minutes before you go outdoors and every two hours afterwards. Sunscreen should never be your only or main method of sun protection–wear dark, tightly woven clothing that covers your arms and legs.
- Slap on a hat that protects your face, head, neck and ears.
- Wrap on sunglasses that meet the Australian/New Zealand Standard.
- Avoid tanning beds; they emit UV rays and can increase your risk of skin cancer.
- Become familiar with your skin so you’ll notice changes in existing moles, freckles, bumps and birthmarks.
- Avoid sun during the middle of the day; skin can burn in as little as 15 minutes in the midday New Zealand summer sun.
Modified information taken from the Mayo Clinic and Cancer Society of NZ websites.