(CBS) Could there be a link between Parkinson's disease and melanoma? A new study suggests that people with Parkinson's, the devastating neurological disorder, are up to twice as likely to develop melanoma, the potentially deadly form of skin cancer.
For the study - published in the June 7 issue of Neurology - researchers pooled data on the two diseases from 12 studies conducted between 1965 to 2010. They found that men with Parkinson's were twice as likely as men without Parkinson's to have melanoma. Women with Parkinson's were 1.5 times as likely to be diagnosed with the dangerous skin cancer as their Parkinson's-free counterparts..
Why would Parkinson's and melanoma be linked? Scientists aren't sure.
"Both conditions may have common genetic pathways or environmental risk factors, or both," study author Dr. Honglei Chen, an investigator at the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, told HealthDay.
Whatever the explanation for the link, Chen said the take-away message of the study was clear.
"It's prudent for Parkinson's patients to be more cautious about their skin health," he said.
Parkinson's disease affects four to six million people worldwide, with over 50,000 new cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year. Symptoms include tremors, movement difficulties, speech changes, and dementia.
Over 68,000 Americans are diagnosed with melanoma each year, and another 8,700 die from it. Symptoms include unusual skin changes - like a new skin growth, or an old mole that changes shape and color. And doctors say it's a good idea to be on the lookout for melanoma whether or not you have Parkinson's.
As Dr. Michelle Greene, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, told WebMD, "The message for anyone, especially for those who may have an increased risk for melanoma, is to go and get skin exams."