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Melanoma in Pregnancy


Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology: December 2011 - Volume 54 - Issue 4 - p 537–545
doi: 10.1097/GRF.0b013e318236e18b
Cancer In Pregnancy

Since the early 1950s clinicians have been concerned about the impact of pregnancy on malignant melanoma (MM). Case reports and case series described a grave prognosis for women diagnosed with MM during pregnancy. Today MM in pregnancy takes on enhanced significance as more women delay childbearing into their 30s and 40s, and the incidence of MM during pregnancy may be expected to increase. In addition, relative immunosuppression during pregnancy theoretically may favor the potential for MMs to behave more aggressively. This article compiles the most recent clinical, epidemiologic, and laboratory studies to guide clinicians in addressing the issue of melanoma in pregnancy. Herein we address the prognosis, characteristics, evaluation, treatment, and how to counsel women diagnosed with MM during pregnancy, including the potential consequences for the fetus. Overall, our analysis reveals that there is no effect on survival in women diagnosed with localized MM during pregnancy; likewise, pregnancies prior or subsequent to a diagnosis of MM do not impact prognosis. Strong epidemiologic evidence shows no enhanced risk of developing MM associated with oral contraceptive pill use. Although a smaller number of studies have addressed hormonal replacement therapy and risk of MM, these studies do not suggest a higher risk of MM. As for the fetus, risk of metastasis to the placenta and/or fetus is extremely low, and seems to occur exclusively in women with widely metastatic MM.

*Department of Dermatology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland

Department of Dermatology, Dermatopathology Laboratory, Cutaneous Oncology Center and Melanoma Program, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, Connecticut

The authors declare that they have nothing to disclose.

Correspondence: Marcia S. Driscoll, MD, PharmD, Department of Dermatology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. E-mail:

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.