Breast Cancer & Skin Cancer- The Link

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  All the lovely pink ribbons are a reminder of the importance of performing regular breast exams both at home and with your physician, as well as getting routine mammograms, ultrasounds, and/or breast MRI’s, especially if there is a family history of breast cancer.  But did you know that patients who have had melanoma have a higher risk of developing breast cancer – and vice versa?

A study performed in Ireland reviewed the 6,788 cases of melanoma and 27,597 cases of breast cancer found in their national cancer registry.  They found 127 of the patients had both types of cancer.  Other studies have reported that breast cancer patients have 1.4-2.7 times the risk of developing melanoma, and that female melanoma patients have a 1.4 times greater chance of developing breast cancer.

Although we’re still not sure how the two cancers are linked, the evidence suggests that mutations in certain genes, such as CDKN2A (mutations that are linked to melanoma), and BRCA2 (gene for breast cancer susceptibility) are likely involved.  Not all cases of breast cancer and melanoma have mutations in these genes, however.

Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for adults aged 25-29 years old.  Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers found in women under the age of 39, followed by melanoma.

The bottom line?  Be safe.  If there is a history of breast cancer in the family, or if anything feels suspicious during self-breast exams, get examined by an Ob-Gyn.  And yearly pap smears and regular breast exams should be performed, too.  Everyone should have a full body skin exam with a dermatologist yearly, and it’s even more crucial if you have had breast cancer.  In between your regular skin exams, check your moles at home – if you see anything that has an irregular shape, color, border, size, or has been changing, please go see your derm pronto.

With both breast cancer and melanoma, early detection saves lives.  Your health is precious, be sure to have your skin and breast exams regularly!


Donna Bilu Martin, MD, is a board certified dermatologist at South Beach Dermatology and Horwitz Dermatology.,  This post is not intended to be used for the purpose of medical diagnosis or treatment in any shape or form.  Accordingly, any information contained within should not be construed as medical advice, evaluation, or consultation and should never be considered a replacement for formal evaluation by a physician in the office.  Therefore, the information and correspondence that is involved with this webblog does not constitute a formal doctor-patient relationship.  Explanation of off-label services and/or products that are mentioned herein does not reflect an endorsement nor promotion and should not be construed as such. 



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