If you have Parkinson’s disease, the last doctor you are likely to think of seeing may be a dermatologist. That could be a big mistake, because he or she could save your life.
The journal Neurology just published a new analysis of a dozen studies on Parkinson’s disease. The researchers who conducted this analysis found a strong association between Parkinson’s and a deadly form of skin cancer. They concluded that people with this neurological disease are at a significantly increased risk for melanoma.
Past studies have been small and inconclusive, due in part to their size. In many of them, there were fewer than 10 participants. This is hardly enough to draw a strong conclusion. The current researchers set out to examine a larger group of studies and examine a possible stronger link between the two diseases.
Here’s what they found: Men with Parkinson’s had twice as many melanomas as men without the neurological disease. Women fared a bit better, but not much. They were one-and-a-half times as likely to have melanoma as women without Parkinson’s.
In a larger study, this one from Creighton University in Nebraska, patients with both Parkinson’s and melanoma were typically older and have a more severe form of Parkinson’s. They also had more risk factors, such as a fair complexion, blue eyes, a history of severe sunburn in their youth, freckles, red or blonde hair, and other skin cancers.
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What about non-melanoma skin cancers? Good news. Parkinson’s wasn’t found to affect them at all.
No one has yet found out what is linking these two illnesses. Two current theories suggest environmental pollutants and/or a genetic component are to blame. We do know that melanoma sometimes runs in families, but we don’t know of any other associations yet. Preliminary studies show a possible link between melanoma and low levels of vitamin D. I suggest everyone get their vitamin D level tested and take supplements to raise blood levels to 80 ng/mL. This important nutrient may protect you from melanoma. You can order vitamin D by following this link.
Future research may offer more explanations. For now, know that there is a link between Parkinson’s and melanoma. If you have Parkinson’s, please, make an appointment today with your dermatologist. And go every year. If you catch melanoma early, your dermatologist can remove it. But left alone, they can spread to the liver and other organs where they can be lethal.
Your voice of reason in Women's Health,
Dr. Janet Zand
American Academy of Neurology (2011, June 8). People with Parkinson's disease may have double the risk for melanoma. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 9, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com-/releases/2011/06/110606161021.htm.