CLL Patients at Higher Risk of Developing Malignant Melanoma
By C.H. Weaver M.D. 8/17/2018
Doctors from the Wilmot Cancer Institute have reported that individuals with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), have a 6 times greater risk of developing malignant melanoma, than the general population.
The finding were reported by Dr. Clive Zent M.D., who led the study which was published in the journal Leukemia Research and his colleagues from the University of Rochester.
The doctors recommend that all clinicians who care for CLL patients should actively monitor for melanoma as a part of their routine care. If melanoma is detected early it is often curable with surgery and manageable with newer precision cancer medicines.
CLL is a chronic leukemia characterized by the production of atypical lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are specialized immune cells that exist in two forms: B- and T-cells. These cells are produced in the bone marrow and each serves a specific function in aiding the body to fight infection. The large majority of CLL cases involve mature B-lymphocytes that tend to live much longer than normal. B-lymphocytes accumulate in the blood, bone marrow, lymph nodes, and spleen. This results in overcrowding of these areas and suppression of the formation and function of blood and immune cells. Additionally, the cancerous lymphocytes themselves do not function normally, leading to a further reduction in the body’s ability to fight infection. The disease tends to get worse slowly.
According to Dr. Zent “Normally, in people with healthy immune systems, malignant skin cells might be detected and destroyed before they become a problem. But in CLL patients, failure of this control system increases the rate at which cancer cells can grow into tumors, and also the likelihood that they will become invasive or spread to distant sites.”
Hopefully this new information will increase the vigilance of both CLL patients and their doctors to perform regular skin cancer screening evaluations.