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Melanoma an equal-opportunity killer. Melanoma an equal-opportunity killer. Thanks to tanning beds, women are catching up to men when it comes to contracting - and dying from - the deadly skin cancer melanoma.

Dr. Marie-France Demierre, assistant professor of dermatology at the BU School of Medicine, says because of the increasingly heavy use of tanning beds, which expose users to the same carcinogenic radiation as the sun, she expects an epidemic of melanoma in women.

"Most sun damage occurs before age 20, and 71 percent of tanning bed users are women aged 16 to 29," says Demierre, a dermatologist. "Melanoma tends to strike the young, robbing people of their productive years."

The American Cancer Society estimates there will be 47,700 new cases of melanoma in America this year, and 7,700 deaths.

Currently men contract melanoma more often than women, and 75 percent of the melanoma diag-nosed in men is at a late stage, after it has spread, says Demierre. Thus, they are more likely to die from its complications.

It is not clear why men get melanoma more frequently and are diagnosed later. But studies have shown, says Demierre, that men typically are reluctant to go to the doctor, are not as aware as women of melanoma risk, and are less likely to seek free screening for the disease.

Some scientists think estrogen may help protect women from melanoma, others that the male chromosome may somehow make men more susceptible to the invading cancer cells.

Women may unwittingly be destroying their natural advantage, Demierre says, through what she calls "tanning bed addictions" and sun worship.

Demierre reported her findings at the Congress on Women's Health and Gender-Based Medicine in June.

Hearty new drug therapy. A new clinical treatment developed at the BU Medical Center can help people suffering from congestive heart failure (CHF). In two studies of more than 400 patients, lead author Dr. Wilson Colucci, MED professor of medicine, found that the new drug nesiritide improved blood flow and reduced labored breathing with a minimum of adverse side effects for many patients.

CHF is a life-threatening disorder that causes the heart to lose its efficiency, leading to a buildup of fluid in the tissues and reduced blood flow. About five million Americans suffer from CHF, and it is the leading cause of hospitalization for people over 65. The disorder may develop gradually over time or as a result of an acute episode such as a heart attack.

Current medical treatments for CHF often cause irregular heartbeat and other serious problems. "Nesiritide’s only side effect was low blood pressure," says Colucci. "It would be a valuable addition to the treatment of patients hospitalized for acute CHF." The new drug is a recombinant form of the human peptide that is part of the body’s natural response to a failing heart.

Colucci and colleagues found that people who took nesiritide improved significantly compared to members of a control group who received a placebo.

The study appeared in the July 24 New England Journal of Medicine.

"Research Briefs" is written by Joan Schwartz in the Office of the Provost. To read more about BU research, visit


15 May 2003
Boston University
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