Does Decreasing Melanoma Risk Start in Adolescence?

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In this informative segment about the sun’s strength, Dr. Michael Wong addresses patients with, or without, melanoma. He encourages everyone to protect them self against the sun and to be aware of its power. It is easy to get caught up in the everyday routine of life, however, making sure to protect your skin is a top priority. Dr. Wong shares that statistically speaking, children and young adults are the most at risk and impacted. 

This in-person town meeting was sponsored by the Patient Empowerment Network through educational grants from Genentech and Novartis. It was produced in partnership with Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center, and the Melanoma Research Alliance.

 

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Transcript

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

Carol Preston:

It was wonderful to listen to you this morning.  It’s got to be fun for you to be talking to other physicians who you probably don’t necessarily interact with on a day to day. So what is your takeaway from what you heard this morning from your colleagues and from the patients who joined you on the stage? 

Dr. Wong:

Well, it’s a hopeful situation. And that’s very important. One of the things I said today is when patients come in with their first diagnosis of melanoma and cancer, I say, “Listen; there are two C words here.

The C word for cancer, and the other C word that we dare mention is cure.”  And the possibility of rendering that person free of disease or at least of stable disease for a very long time measured in years. And so one of the things that I hope came up from this morning’s discussion is that the ability to do that by surgery, by medicines, by radiation, by meticulous follow-up, by clinical trials. And that is becoming a real possibility for melanoma patients.

Carol Preston:

Something that I always instruct in my communication workshop never to do is to speculate. So I’m going to ask you a speculative question.  Given how dangerous the sun can be, the ultraviolet rays, if you were to speculate if, for some reason, in the United States, for example, the entire population said we’re not going to go out in the sun anymore, I mean, would we see that precipitous a drop, not today, obviously, but down the line of these skin cancers and melanomas? 

Dr. Wong:

Right. Instead of saying not into the sun because I’m in Southern California, and I came from Buffalo, and this feels good.  And facts prove that there are natural endorphins that come up almost like a high you get from being—and of course, the agricultural workers and construction workers are outside.  But so I’d rather say something like going out into the sun knowing full well that you have to be guarded against the effects of it no different than thinking through things that might have some risk. 

If we did that, I think it would really drive down a lot of melanoma risk in folks. I want to point out something that was said this morning, which I really believe in, which is the folks most at risk are children and young adults. We know that having a sunburn in and around time of puberty confers with an outlandish risk for that individual. So by the time patients come to see me, we are looking at the end result of a long-term sun exposure much akin to the fact that, if you smoke one cigarette, you’re not going to get lung cancer.

But if you do a lifetime of it, that’s what happens.  So the message now really is directed not just at folks that have the melanoma but to all those folks that are out there right now sort of going through and just living life on a regular basis.

Carol Preston:

Interesting. Now, I’ve heard skin cancer and melanoma discussed as it’s really the case study for other cancers and the template, if you will. In terms of the research that’s being done, is that how it’s regarded? Are you seeing a cross-pollination with other cancer treatments? 

Dr. Wong:

Absolutely. So the ideas, the strategies, the follow-up pattern, the way that tumors are responding to therapy as it’s happening in melanoma is actually being used in other cancers. And we just heard weeks ago that one of the PD1 inhibitors first pioneered in melanoma now is approved for lung cancer.

And that research is just starting to peak now as we are using that strategy in a bunch of other solid tumors and even hematologic malignancies—so absolutely, yes.  I feel honored and gratified that it’s all happening on my watch. It’s good to be part of that. It’s exciting. But also, I feel great for my patients who now we have options for. 

Carol Preston:

Well, Dr. Michael Wong, I want to thank you for the work you do and, obviously, urge you to continue to enjoy Southern California. Why not?  Thank you so much.

Dr. Wong:

My pleasure.  Thank you. 

Carol Preston:

It was great to have you here. 

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

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Page last updated on July 17, 2017