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Wider Surgical Margins May Improve Melanoma Outcomes

The American Cancer Society estimates that 76,000 Americans will be diagnosed with melanoma this year. About 10,000 people will die from this form of skin cancer. While melanoma treatment has come a long way in recent years, the rates of diagnosis have been rising over the past three decades or so.

Surgical removal of cancerous skin is one of the most common treatments for melanoma. The treatment may, of course, be followed by other interventions, such as chemo or radiation. Improving the success rates of surgical intervention may be achieved by simply widening the margins involved, a recent study found. That study indicates that surgical margins of 2 cm thickness are superior to the often used 1 cm measurement employed by many doctors. The study focused specifically on cutaneous melanomas greater than 2 mm in thickness.

Since the recommendation calls for significantly larger margins of healthy tissue removal to ensure that cancer cells are removed, researchers collected five years of data to support their recommendations. The research showed that patients who had 2 mm margins created during surgery had a better long-term survival rate.

The exact margins recommended for surgery will, of course, vary based on a patient’s unique case. Researchers found, however, that 1 cm margins are inadequate in cases where melanomas are thicker than 2 mm. While the 2 cm margins improved outcomes, researchers noted that going wider may not be advisable either.

People who are diagnosed with melanoma should discuss all treatment options with their healthcare provider. Generally, doctors seek to remove the smallest margin possible to help preserve a patient’s healthy tissue and appearances. In some cases, however, going wider may improve long-term survival results. The ultimate decision on treatment should hinge on the specifics of an individual patient’s case. The doctor overseeing treatment will be in the best position to make recommendations about margin size and other possible treatment options.

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