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Saturday, 12 July 2008 02:06

Skin cancer 50% worse for young white women in U.S.

Deadly skin cancer (melanoma) among young white women has risen dramatically in the United States since 1980, according to a new U.S. government study. Rates of skin cancer among young white men has luckily leveled off.

The article “Recent Trends in Incidence of Cutaneous Melanoma among US Caucasian Young Adults” was published online in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology on Thursday, July 10, 2008.

Led by Mark P. Purdue, the researchers in the study include Laura E. Beane, William F. Anderson, and Margaret A. Tucker, all with the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, Rockville, Maryland, U.S.A.

The U.S. National Cancer Institute researchers analyzed data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Ed Results (SEER) program that was collected between 1973 and 2004.

The data was collected only on male and female Caucasian Americans between the ages of 15 and 39 years in the U.S. areas of: Atlanta, Georgia; Connecticut; Detroit, Michigan, Hawaii; Iowa; New Mexico; San Francisco-Oakland, California; Seattle, Washington; and Utah.

The conclusions of the study found that melanoma rates among young white men remained fairly steady between the years 1980 and 2004.

However, for young white women the study found that the yearly number of melanoma cases increased by nearly 50%--from 9.4 cases per 100,000 women to 13.9 cases per 100,000 women.

The report did not specific a cause of the doubling of melanoma cases for young women in the United States. However, the researchers commented that the rise in incident rates of melanoma among young white women in the United States also paralleled the increased use of tanning salons and the increased time spent tanning in the Sun, as based on other U.S. government statistics.

What did the researchers say on skin cancer in young women and tanning bed use in the United States? Please read on.

The researchers stated within their paper, “The recent increase in incidence among young women parallels reported trends in exposure to UVR [ultraviolet radiation], the primary environmental cause of melanoma …. The prevalence of sunburn is increasing among US adult men and women overall, although trends by age group have not been reported …. Among adolescents aged 16–18 years, both the prevalence of sunburn and the average number of days spent at the beach increased between sun surveys conducted in 1998 and 2004…. Tanning bed usage, which has been recently evaluated as a probable cause of melanoma …, is increasing among US adults and is most prevalent among young women ….”

The researchers suggest that further studies should be conducted to understand the specific reasons why the percentage of young white women are getting melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer in the United States.

Specifically, they stated, “… our analysis of SEER data suggests that melanoma incidence is increasing among young women. Additional studies are needed to clarify whether the increasing trends for melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer are the result of changes in UVR exposure in this population.”

According to Bloomberg.com article “Skin Cancer Rates Rise in Young Women, Along Tanning Trends,” Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer, diagnosed in 67,000 people in the U.S. each year and killing more than 11,000, according to the American Cancer Society. Despite public health efforts to reduce exposure to ultraviolet radiation, the main environmental cause of the disease, millions of Americans still seek light rays either at the beach, backyard or tanning beds, which are used more often by women than men.”

Dr. Purdue also commented on past U.S. public education campaigns on skin cancer. He said in the same Bloomberg article, “The findings suggest that the public education campaigns that have been conducted in the U.S. since the 1980s about the risks of melanoma from sun tanning may not have resulted in a reduction in melanoma rates among young women. We do seem to see some promising leveling off in the rates for young men.''


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