Sancy Leachman on Patients at High Risk for Melanoma

January 16, 2016
Sancy Leachman, MD, PhD

Sancy Leachman, MD, PhD, professor and chair, Department of Dermatology, director, Melanoma Research Program, Knight Cancer Institute, Oregon Health & Science University, discusses patients who are at high risk for developing melanoma.

Sancy Leachman, MD, PhD, professor and chair, Department of Dermatology, director, Melanoma Research Program, Knight Cancer Institute, Oregon Health & Science University, discusses patients who are at high risk for developing melanoma.

Leachman says high risk is defined differently across specialties. Dermatologists consider people at high risk if they have physical features that would predispose them to the disease, such as red hair, blue eyes, fair skin, freckles, and moles. Surgical and medical oncologists consider someone who has had a positive sentinel lymph node biopsy for melanoma to be at high risk for recurrence.

Leachman adds that people with a strong family history are at a particularly high risk. Those who inherit a mutation in a high-penetrance susceptibility gene, such as the CDKN2A gene, have an estimated 75% chance of developing melanoma in their lifetime.