March 8, 2009

Melanoma Rates Increasing in Young Women


Melanoma Rates Increasing in Young Women

Rates of melanoma-the most deadly form of skin cancer-continue to increase among young women in the United States. These results were published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

The three most common types of skin cancer are melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. Melanoma is less common than basal cell or squamous cell skin cancer, but tends to be much more aggressive. Of the more than one million new diagnoses of skin cancer each year, roughly 62,000 involve melanoma. More than 8,000 people die of melanoma each year in the United States.[1] What makes melanoma so dangerous is that it is more likely than other types of skin cancer to spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. Melanoma can occur anywhere on the body. The first signs of melanoma may be a mole that changes in appearance, bleeds, or has more than one color or an irregular shape.[2]

To explore trends in the incidence of melanoma among young adults in the United States, researchers evaluated information from a large U.S. cancer database: the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program.[3] The study, which focused on Caucasians between the ages of 15 and 39 years of age, collected information about melanoma diagnoses between 1973 and 2004.

  • Among young men, the rate of melanoma increased from 4.7 cases per 100,000 people in 1973 to 7.7 cases per 100,000 people in 2004.
  • Among young women, the rate of melanoma increased from 5.5 cases per 100,000 people in 1973 to 13.9 cases per 100,000 people in 2004.
  • During the most recent time period, rates of melanoma in young men remained fairly stable, while rates in young women continued to increase.

Although the researchers did not collect information about the reason for the increase in melanoma among young women, they note that the prevalence of sunburns and use of tanning beds also increased during this time period. Exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun or from tanning beds increases the risk of skin cancer.[4]


[1] American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts and Figures 2008. Available at (Accessed July 11, 2008).

[2] National Cancer Institute. Melanoma (PDQ®): Treatment. Patient Version. Available at: (Accessed July 11, 2008)

[3] Purdue MP, Beane Freeman LE, Anderson WF, Tucker MA. Recent Trends in Incidence of Cutaneous Melanoma among US Caucasian Young Adults. Journal of Investigative Dermatology [early online publication]. July 10, 2008.

[4] International Agency for Research on Cancer, World Health Organization. Press Release No. 171. Sunbed use in youth unequivocally associated with skin cancer. November 29, 2006. Available at: (Accessed July 11, 2008).

Related News:

Rates of Melanoma Continue to Increase (04/28/2008)

Tanning Beds Pose Skin Cancer Risks (04/28/2008)

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