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New Research Into Melanoma Treatments at GBMC

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In partnership with Fox45

June 1, 2021
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. In fact, more people are diagnosed with skin cancer in the U.S. each year than all other cancers combined. Mei Tang, M.D., a Medical Oncologist and Hematologist at The Sandra and Malcolm Berman Cancer Institute at GBMC, says one reason for the large number of diagnoses is the fact that Americans are living longer.

"Most 70- to 80-year-old people didn't wear as much sunscreen growing up and didn't take precautions to avoid the sun, so we're seeing higher incidences of skin cancer among that age group now," she explains.

One in five Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the age of 70. While that number seems daunting, Dr. Tang says the ability to detect abnormalities in the skin through regular screenings means most skin cancers are caught before they become too serious.

"The reason we aren't as afraid of melanoma as we are other types of cancer is that most skin cancers are found early from screening and are treated surgically, removed, and cured."

Almost all patients whose melanoma is detected early and receive an estimated five-year survival rate for patients are cured, according to Dr. Tang.

Standards of care are in place for every type of skin cancer. The medical community is continuously researching whether varying treatment options may be more efficient in conquering skin cancer. Dr. Tang and the Clinical Trials Department at GBMC are currently recruiting for two national melanoma trials that examine the efficacy of the order in which certain treatments are given to patients. Dr. Tang says these trials are only for patients with specific cancer mutations at advanced stages. Yet, the mere fact that GBMC offers access to newer treatments through clinical trials, in addition to the standard of care, means patients have every opportunity to explore the cutting edge of advancement in cancer care near their homes.

"We have patients and patient families who are actively looking for options that can improve survival and improve their care, and we're proud at GBMC that we can give them access to those options," Dr. Tang says.

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and with summer right around the corner, Dr. Tang reminds everyone that prevention is the key to dodging a skin cancer diagnosis. She recommends avoiding direct sunlight, wearing a hat and sunscreen while spending time outdoors, and avoiding indoor tanning beds. She also recommends regular screenings for anyone who's had previous extensive sun damage to their skin (five or more sunburns).

"Early detection [of skin cancer] is key. If it can be diagnosed early and removed, most patients will be cured," Dr. Tang says.

For more information on the Clinical Trials Program at GBMC, please visit www.gbmc.org/clinicaltrials.
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