Melanoma Rates Jump 50% for Young Women

All types of skin cancer are on the rise in women.

Particularly concerning is new data from the National Cancer Institute which shows that from 1980 to 2004 melanoma rates rose 50% for young women.

A study of this data, published in the July 10th issue of the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, analyzed 20,000 cases of melanoma in young adults ages 15 to 39. The cases were recorded in a large database maintained by the National Cancer Institute.

The authors found the melanoma rate in young women rose from 9.4 per 100,000 in 1980 to 13.9 per 100,000 in 2004. In young men, melanoma rates remained stable at about 7.7 per 100,000 during the same time period.

Why the significant increase in melanoma in women? It is not likely due to improved detection of melanoma because we would expect that melanoma rates would have increased in both men and in women equally. It is more likely due to increased exposure to ultraviolet radiation, a risk factor for developing melanoma. Other studies of the same time period have shown that:

* More and more people in the U.S. are getting sunburned
* Teenagers had a higher incidence of sunburn and reported that they spent more days at the beach in 2004 then they did in 1998.
* More young people in the U.S., especially women, are using tanning beds.

Melanoma is curable when caught early. It is life-threatening when it has spread. Here’s how to find a melanoma:

Do a self skin exam every 3-6 months, at a minimum. Have a partner help you with hard to see areas such as the scalp and back. If you have a family history of melanoma, have many moles, or have a history of any type of skin cancer, then see your dermatologist regularly for a complete skin exam. It could save your life.