Updated: Oct 13, 2021
Melanoma is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers during pregnancy. It is a particularly dangerous type of skin cancer because it can easily spread to nearby cells and other parts of the body. While the relationship between Melanoma and Pregnancy isn’t completely understood, it’s important to be aware of the possibilities.
First, during pregnancy there is a LOT going on in the body. Extra hormones, immune response, and other growth factors can cause Melanoma to grow faster during pregnancy. This is a possible reason why so many women are diagnosed with melanoma during pregnancy or during child-bearing years.
Hyperpigmentation during pregnancy is also very common, which can cause a misdiagnosis. Confusing melanoma for hyperpigmentation can delay action that could help prevent the spread of the cancer. If you’re noticing any changes of color in your skin, it’s important to have your doctor monitor them. In my opinion, being over-cautious in this situation can help.
It’s also important to be aware that Melanoma can grow and spread to the placenta and fetus. Studies show that most melanoma doesn’t affect the baby, but once a fetus is affected by malignant melanoma, the risk is extreme. This is why it is important to have the placenta tested and the baby examined carefully after birth.
When I was pregnant with my second child, I was diagnosed with melanoma. I remember thinking “Oh, skin cancer. That’s not too scary, they can just cut it out.” It wasn’t until later that I realized how dangerous and scary my diagnosis really was. I ended up having multiple surgeries, my lymph nodes removed, and I now carry at least 50 scars all over my body. I was told that my baby could be affected by the melanoma, and I would have to wait to find out. We had to wait 4 weeks after she was born to find out that she was unaffected. It was absolutely terrifying.
This is why I want to spread the word about Melanoma, especially during pregnancy. It’s a very important part of my health story, and something that a lot of people don’t think about much.
So, what can we do?
First, there are a lot of genetic factors that go into cancer and cancer development. Some people are more prone to certain types of cancers, and they were just born that way. We can never be certain to eliminate the risk, but there are lots of other things we can do to stay as healthy as possible.
Melanoma is a skin cancer, but there are lots of internal things we can do as well as external. Cancer comes from abnormal cells growing and destroying healthy cells. So, how do we avoid these abnormal cells?
One of the best things we can do is to take a look at our diet and the things that go into our body. Toxin and chemical buildup has been linked to cancer in many cases. This is why I suggest eating organic food as much as possible. Pesticides and other chemicals are used without consequence on so much of our food. Small amounts of these chemicals enter our food, which gets stuck in our bodies. If something is labeled USDA ORGANIC, it means it has not been treated with these harmful chemicals.
You can also do your best to eliminate heavy metals and toxins that are already built up in your system. I wrote a whole blog post about that here.
Another way to ditch the toxins is through our skincare and beauty routines. There are SO many products out there that are filled with nasty chemicals. I could write forever on this topic, but here are a few basic ingredients to avoid: parabens, sulfates, phthalates, triclosan, oxybenzone, BHA, and anything with "fragrance". ("fragrance" indicates a mixture of chemicals which normally include parabens. If a company writes "fragrance", they aren't really disclosing what is IN the fragrance.)
It might go without saying, but I'll say it anyways... WEAR SUNSCREEN! The sun damages our skin so much, and wearing sunscreen can help fight against that UV damage and skin cancer. And, make sure you're using a sunscreen without oxybenzone! (Use the EWG guide for reference).
In the end, we can never truly predict what will happen in our lives. I never guessed in a million years that I would get melanoma on my shin (I played soccer, so my shins were almost always covered with shin guards!). The only thing we can do is try our best to stay healthy, avoid toxins, and educate ourselves about health concerns such as Melanoma during pregnancy.