The Mayo Clinic is seeing an alarming trend: the dramatic rise of skin cancer, especially among people under 40.
According to a study by Mayo Clinic researchers published in the April issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, the incidence of melanoma has escalated, and young women are the hardest hit.
Of course, young men are also at risk for skin cancer.
“We anticipated we’d find rising rates, as other studies are suggesting, but we found an even higher incidence than the National Cancer Institute had reported using the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Result database, and in particular, a dramatic rise in women in their 20s and 30s,” says lead investigator Jerry Brewer, M.D., a Mayo Clinic dermatologist.
Staying out of tanning salons, avoiding sun exposure, and getting frequent skin cancer exams from a dermatologist are a few of the preventive measures mentioned.
Researchers conducted a population-based study using records from the Rochester Epidemiology Project, a decades-long database of all patient care in Olmsted County, Minn. They looked for first-time diagnoses of melanoma in patients 18 to 39 from 1970 to 2009. The study found the incidence of melanoma increased eightfold among young women and fourfold among young men. The lifetime risk of melanoma is higher in males than females, but the opposite is true in young adults and adolescents, Dr. Brewer says.
“Melanoma remains a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States. It is the fifth most common cancer in men and the seventh most common in women. Among young adults, melanoma is the second most common invasive cancer, behind only breast cancer.” the study explains.
“A recent study reported that people who use indoor tanning beds frequently are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma, and we know young women are more likely to use them than young men,” Dr. Brewer says.
“Some studies show a strong association between UV light exposure and the risk of melanoma. A survey of patients from an academic dermatology clinic found that exposure to indoor tanning beds was a significant risk factor for the development of melanoma and that this risk was even greater among women younger than 45 years. A meta-analysis of other studies addressing this topic confirmed the association between use of tanning beds and melanoma.” the authors note.
“The results of this study emphasize the importance of active interventions to decrease risk factors for skin cancer and, in particular, to continue to alert young women that indoor tanning has carcinogenic effects that increase the risk of melanoma. In addition, skin cancer screening examinations in young adults are strongly recommended.”
Childhood sunburns and ultraviolet exposure in adulthood may also contribute to melanoma development, the researchers say.
“Increasing Incidence of Melanoma Among Young Adults: An Epidemiological Study in Olmsted County, Minnesota” Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Volume 87, Issue 4 , Pages 328-334, April 2012, The study was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health. Other authors include Kurtis Reed, M.D., Christine Lohse, Kariline Bringe, Crystal Pruitt, and Lawrence Gibson, M.D. all of Mayo Clinic.