By Dr. Maria Simbra

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Lots of people have acne in their teen years, but what does that mean later in life?

Researchers looked into this and found an increased risk of melanoma. It may not be related to the acne itself, but the reason for the acne in the first place.

“When you have excess acne, you probably have excess hormones as well. So, maybe people are thinking acne is associated with certain cancers,” Dr. Brian Horvath said.

They followed a group of about 100,000 nurses for 20 years, starting in 1989. They watched for different types of cancer, including melanoma and took note of any history of severe teenage acne – the kind with cysts and boils.

“Of those 100,000, around 350 ended up developing melanoma. That’s about a one-and-a-half times higher rate than you’d expect,” Dr. Horvath said. “Historically, we haven’t asked about the past history of acne, but it seems that’s something we should do.”

This type of study can’t determine cause and effect, but it points to patterns worth paying attention to. You may not be able to do anything about acne-causing hormones, but you can do some things to prevent melanoma.

“It is a marker just to maybe be a little more careful with sun protection, try to avoid the tanning beds, avoid sun exposure without wearing sunscreen in the future,” Dr. Horvath said.

Future studies could look into whether altering these hormones might reduce the risk.

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Dr. Maria Simbra