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Increased Risk of Melanoma for People with Parkinsonís

Having Parkinson’s disease (PD) may be associated with an  increased risk  of developing melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, according to research published in the June 7, 2011 issue of Neurology. 

Many studies have suggested an association between Parkinson's and melanoma.  But linking them definitively has been difficult because doing so would require studying a large number of people with both diseases, and such cases are relatively rare.

In the new research, scientists led by Honglei Chen, M.D., Ph.D., at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, used a statistical technique to overcome this obstacle.  The technique, called meta-analysis, allowed them to combine data from 12 previously published studies carried out between 1965 and 2010.  Most of these studies included fewer than 10 people who had both PD and melanoma.


  • Men with PD were twice as likely as those without the disease to have melanoma.
  • Women with PD were diagnosed with melanoma 1.5 times as often as women who did not have PD.
  • No link was found between PD and types of skin cancer other than melanoma

What Does it Mean? 

People with PD have a lower risk of developing most types of cancer than the general population.  The current study confirms that melanoma is an exception—people with PD are at a higher-than-average risk of developing this form of skin cancer. This study further confirms that melanoma is very rare among people with Parkinson's, and only analyses of 12 studies combined, provided sufficient data to assess this link. Based on these findings and previously published literature, melanoma is very rare among people with Parkinson's.

Researchers once suspected that taking the Parkinson’s medication levodopa increased the risk of melanoma, but this has proven not to be the case.  Rather, according to the study authors, several lines of evidence point to possible biological links between Parkinson's and melanoma, such as shared environmental or genetic risk factors, or common molecular pathways.  More research is needed to evaluate these ideas. Whether more rigorous skin examinations and self-examinations of people with Parkinson's are required remains to be studied.

Source Date: Jun 07 2011