Melanoma: How is it associated with stress?

7 June 2016
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Further to the already known harmful effects of chronic stress on our health, experts now warn that stress is also linked to melanoma! The negative effects of chronic stress have been evaluated in the context of epidemiology and it has been found that these may contribute to the onset of the disease.

These facts, among others, were highlighted during a press conference held by Dr. Georgios Kokkalis, MD, chairman of the Hellenic Association for the Study of Melanoma, plastic surgeon – oncology and reconstruction, Dr. Alexander I. Stratigos, MD, Professor of Dermatology – Venereology – Athens School of Medicine, Head of the Moles and Melanoma Unit at the 1st University Clinic of Venereal and Skin Diseases, “Andreas Syggros” Hospital, Dr. Konstantina Frangia-Tsibou MD, pathologist specializing in the field of skin pathology and, particularly in oncology and pigmented lesions, and Dr. Dimitrios Bafaloukos MD, oncologist – internist, Director of the 1st Oncology Unit of “Metropolitan” hospital and Professor at Athens Technological Educational Institute (TEI).

The press conference was held on the occasion of the Two-day Awareness Event for the Prevention and Treatment of Melanoma, organized by the Hellenic Society for the Study of Melanoma (ELEMMEL) and addressed to the public, on Friday 10 and Saturday 11 June, at the War Museum (2 Rizari St., Athens, “Evangelismos” Metro Station).
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“The sun’s UVA rays bring a feeling of well-being that is linked to one’s exaggerating tendency to expose one’s body to the sun without moderation, particularly during summer vacations, whether these are spent by the sea or on a mountain, pointed out Dr. Konstantina Frangia-Tsivou, pathologist MD, specialising in the field of skin pathology and particularly in Oncology and pigmented lesions.
“It has been scientifically proven, however, that one’s periodical, sudden and unrestricted exposure to sunlight, especially when combined with sunburns during childhood and adolescence, increases the likelihood of future health problems, including the growth of melanoma or other forms of skin cancer. In addition, research studies in the recent decades have associated chronic and prolonged stress that is due to environmental and psychological factors with the onset of melanoma or other forms of cancer but also with the promotion of malignant tumor progression in the human body, in the form of metastases. Both the sun’s radiation and stress acting together in combination with years of exposure trigger the extreme proliferation of melanocytes in the skin, which can ultimately lead to the development of melanoma “.

However, all above can in no way justify the parents who forbid their children to play outdoors, since the benefits of exposure to the sun, combined with the joy of play and laughter, ensure a good health in future years.

“It is certain that the Greek family will have a very hard time adapting to the right pattern of exposure to the sun that is contrary to all of today’s wrong habits of the average Greek adult. But this is absolutely necessary. In particular, parents of young children and adolescents should give out the right example. They must care to protect the young skin and instill a joyous and optimistic approach to everyday life, promoting health, which is their most valuable asset, compared to financial and professional establishment” concluded Mrs. Frangia.

Dr. Alexander I. Stratigos, MD, Professor of Dermatology – Venereology in Athens Medical School, Head of the Moles and Melanoma Unit at the 1st University Clinic for Venereal and Skin Diseases at “Andreas Syggros” Hospital, stressed the importance of self-examination and early detection: “On the occasion of this awareness event, organized by the Hellenic Society for the Study of Melanoma on the 10th and 11th of June 2016, we would like to express our support towards this effort and highlight the need for public awareness on melanoma. Early diagnosis that is based on simple identification and removal of a suspicious skin lesion is the cornerstone for effective treatment of the disease. Self-examination of the skin and regular examination of moles by a dermatologist can help in the diagnosis of the early stages of melanoma, preventing its development into a potentially hazardous situation”.

All people, regardless of skin type, age or gender, should avoid sun exposure from 11:00 am until 16:00 pm in the afternoon and must use proper sunscreen. In the context of prevention, one must also avoid exposure in tanning devices, which give off dangerous ultraviolet radiation.
“Melanoma is a malignancy that can be prevented! The aim of the event is to inform the public about the scale of the problem, the early identification and the ways with which each one of us can protect oneself from melanoma”, said Mr. Stratigos.
Dr. George Kokkalis MD, Chairman of the Hellenic Association for the Study of Melanoma plastic surgeon – oncology and reconstruction, referred to the surgical treatment of melanoma, explaining that early diagnosis and prompt surgical removal of melanoma is the correct way of handling the condition.
“The removal and histological examination of a suspicious pigmented mole that has certain features, such as size, color change, uneven shape and ulceration, constitutes the first right step towards verifying a case of melanoma. Removal of the suspected mole is performed with local anesthesia followed by immediate trauma suturing. Thereafter, the preparation is sent for histological examination. If the histological examination reveals a melanoma, the patient is put under general anaesthesia and submitted to further excision of melanoma with 2-3 cm margin, depending on the location and depth of the lesion, and then to plastic reconstruction with skin graft or flap.

The process continues with a pathological investigation of the sentinel lymph node, i.e. the first lymph node draining the melanoma” said Mr. Kokkalis who gave a step-by-step analysis of the procedure.

However, in the past five years, there are impressive developments in the treatment of metastatic melanoma as well. The FDA and EMA have approved seven new drugs or combination products, said Dr. Dimitrios Bafaloukos MD, oncologist – internist, Director of the 1st Oncology Unit of “Metropolitan” hospital and Professor at Athens Technological Educational Institute (TEI).

Progress is made thanks to the introduction of new medicines in the treatment of melanoma. These drugs either refer to immunotherapy or are used in targeted therapies for specific mutations. With these treatments we have achieved long survival rates. It is worth noticing that 34% of patients with metastatic melanoma, although in pretreatment, achieve survival of more than 5 years with immunotherapy and new drugs. All these facts are impressive, considering that five years ago, the survival rate was only 6 months. The investigation continues in full swing and combinations of immunotherapy and targeted therapies are put to the test, so that in the near future we may be able to say that a certain number of patients with metastatic melanoma can be cured” concluded Mr. Bafaloukos.

On Friday 10th and Saturday 11th of June, from 09:00 a.m. to 20:00pm, eminent scientists will discuss the process of melanoma diagnosis, the health risks associated with this condition and the latest developments in treatment. There will also be discussion about high-risk groups and a Q&A session with the audience. Moreover, dermatologists of the Hellenic Society for the Study of Melanoma will “educate” those interested as to the correct method of self-examination, explaining, at the same time, the changes in moles (shape, color, itching etc.) that call for special attention.
Also, games and a puppet show will be held on Saturday for children aged 5+. The theme is “Sunscreen Rules” (shows from 11:00 am to 14:00 pm and 18:00 pm to 20:00 pm in the evening (For information call: 210 7218366 210 & 7216876).

The 2-day Awareness Event for the Prevention and Treatment of Melanoma, is organized by the Hellenic Association for the Study of Melanoma (ELEMMEL) and sponsored by: BRISTOL-MYERS SQUIBB, NOVARTIS, ROCHE, FREZYDERM.

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