Summertime is just around the corner and that means plenty of trips to the beach and relaxing by the pool. But, make sure to apply sunscreen before you leave home. Research suggests pregnancy may increase the risk of skin cancer and there’s a possibility that it may transmit to an unborn baby. Most women will experience some change in their skin while they’re pregnant. You might notice a few new skin tags, maybe a couple new, darker freckles or moles you never noticed before, or a change in your skin’s pigment. Pregnancy does alter your immune system and can increase a mommy-to-be’s risk of illness, including cancer, making it so important to regularly and properly use sunscreen throughout the summer months.
Your body will go through a rollercoaster of hormonal changes during pregnancy and some of those changes can lead to a greater mutation of cancer cells. According to research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), women who are pregnant or were recently pregnant are at the greatest risk of developing more serious cases of melanoma.
“Some researchers speculated that melanomas may grow rapidly and spread due to the hormones associated with pregnancy,” according to dermatologist Marcia S. Discoll in an interview with the AAD. “While we know that hormones may impact other types of cancer, such as breast and ovarian cancer, a review of the research on pregnancy and melanoma shows there is no evidence that pregnancy has an adverse influence either on the prognosis of melanoma or the risk of developing melanoma.”
Researchers estimate that nearly one-third of cases of melanoma— the most serious form of skin cancer and most common form of cancer for young adults 25 to 29 years old — are diagnosed in women during their childbearing years, according to the AAD.
While there isn’t any specific research to date that examines why pregnancy might influence more serious outcomes, researchers suggest that the hormonal changes that pregnant women will experience in combination with a suppressed immune system could help cancerous tumors grow. Moms-to-be also know that their bodies are going to go through an abundance of changes in a nine-month span, so noticing the possibility of skin cancer might also be overlooked altogether.
"Pregnant women are told that they'll see changes in their skin, so they don't think twice about it," Dr. Brian Gastman, director of melanoma care at the Cleveland Clinic, told Glamour in an interview in January.
Pregnant women already have enough to worry about as they prepare to welcome their bundle of joy to the world, so regular skin checks are recommended to help ease your mind if you are at risk of melanoma. If you see any changes in your skin, definitely check with your doctor. Also, make sure to apply an ample amount of sunscreen with a strong SPF as you enjoy the warm and sunny weather.