Introduction: The rising incidence and mortality rates of melanoma, the most fatal form of skin cancer, are among the greatest increases of all preventable cancers over the past decade. However, because of recent advances in early detection, secondary prevention efforts, and treatment, the number of melanoma survivors is increasing. Little research has been conducted on melanoma survivors and important opportunities exist for research in this understudied population. Here, we outline the important research opportunities related to the study of melanoma survivorship and summarize the paucity of literature currently available.
Materials and methods: A computerized literature search was performed of the MEDLINE database of the National Library of Medicine from 1966-2005. The scope of the search was limited to those studies published in English. The search was conducted using the following MeSH headings: melanoma, neoplasms, skin neoplasms, survival, and survival rate. The reference lists of relevant book chapters and review articles were further reviewed, and printed materials from recent scientific meetings addressing this topic were obtained.
Results: Several factors that affect melanoma survivors warrant further study, including: physiologic long-term effects; psychosocial, behavioral, and cognitive factors; demographic characteristics; surveillance practices; recurrences, secondary primaries, and other cancers; family members of survivors; and economic issues, access to health care/life insurance.
Conclusions: Understanding recurrence and second primary cancer risk, psychosocial and cognitive characteristics, behaviors, surveillance patterns, economic sequelae, and family issues of melanoma survivors is important from a public health standpoint to promote the health and well-being of this cohort.
Implications for cancer survivors: Melanoma is an understudied cancer, and the incidence and mortality of this disease are increasing. Describing the long term burden of this cancer and identifying factors that contribute to them will facilitate efforts to develop responsive secondary prevention strategies.