Much of our role as Naturopathic Doctors is focusing on the prevention of recurrence of cancer in patients who have been treated successfully through conventional means. Patients who have been treated for (or who are at risk for) malignant melanoma, present a unique situation in that they should be screened for hypothyroidism as part of their cancer prevention protocol.

TSH receptors have been shown to promote growth of melanoma cells, and should be tested and treated in patients who are high risk, or who are looking to prevent recurrence.

When a patient’s thyroid is under-active, their brain responds by releasing more and more Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) to attempt to increase thyroid function. As thyroid function gets lower, TSH gets higher in the blood, and is the typical marker used to screen for hypothyroidism. Melanoma cells present a unique situation in that they express working TSH receptors on their cell surface, meaning that as TSH increases, it is a direct stimulus for growth and development of malignant melanoma cells.

This finding was first noted by observing that a huge percentage of patients with melanoma also were diagnosed with low thyroid (1,2), and confirmed by a research group who proved that TSH is a direct growth stimulator for malignant melanoma cells – even at a concentration that might be considered within normal limits in a patient (3).

Given this information, patients with previous melanoma should be screened for hypothyroid as part of their long-term plan, and should be treated if their TSH is elevated above desired ranges. Naturopathic Doctors are well versed in metabolic disease such as hypothyroid, and the Doctors in our office have a prescribing license for Thyroid Hormone to treat under-active thyroid.

1. Shah M, Orengo IF, Rosen T. High prevalence of hypothyroidism in male patients with cutaneous melanoma. Dermatol Online J [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][Internet]. 2006 Jan 1 [cited 2016 Aug 19];12(2). Available from: http://escholarship.org/uc/item/3rn7k0d8

2. Ellerhorst JA, Cooksley CD, Broemeling L, Johnson MM, Grimm EA. High prevalence of hypothyroidism among patients with cutaneous melanoma. Oncol Rep. 2003 Oct;10(5):1317–20.

3. Ellerhorst JA, Sendi-Naderi A, Johnson MK, Cooke CP, Dang SM, Diwan AH. Human melanoma cells express functional receptors for thyroid-stimulating hormone. Endocr Relat Cancer. 2006 Dec;13(4):1269–77.