Mayo Clinic Blames Tanning Salons For Sharp Increase In Melanoma Cases
April 2, 2012

Mayo Clinic Blames Tanning Salons For Sharp Increase In Melanoma Cases

Even as the rates of some cancers are falling, an alarming trend among people under 40 in the dramatic rise of skin cancer has been observed by researchers at Mayo Clinic. Health officials are specifically citing tanning salons as a major source of the increase, the April issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings suggests.

Researchers examined records from a decades-long database of all patient care in Olmsted County, Minn., and looked for first-time diagnoses of melanoma in patients ages 18-39 from 1970 to 2009, writes Janice Lloyd for USA Today. Melanoma cases increased eightfold among women in that time and fourfold for men, the authors say.

Report co-author Jerry Brewer, a dermatologist at the Mayo Clinic told Lloyd: “We need to get away from the idea that skin cancer is an older person´s disease.”

“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.”

The findings might be explained by gender-specific behaviors addressed in other studies, the authors wrote. “Young women are more likely than young men to participate in activities that increase risk for melanoma, including voluntary exposure to artificial sunlamps.”

A major government study published last Wednesday reported that while new cases of many of the most common cancers are declining, melanoma cases are increasing.

Physician Marcus Plescia, director of the division of cancer prevention for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, explained to Lloyd: “We´re very concerned about the melanoma rates and the damage done by early exposure to sun, but also the increasing use of tanning beds.”

“I think (TV) shows like Jersey Shore portray healthy people as someone who has a great tan,´´ says Laura Hopwood, 22, who was diagnosed with melanoma a year ago. “Somehow you´re not attractive unless you´re deeply tanned. Before I developed melanoma, a friend scolded me about not using sunscreen.”

Hopwood says she did not do enough to protect herself from sun damage but has never used a tanning bed. Her parents have not had melanoma. A surgeon made an incision from below her left eye to nearly her chin to remove damaged skin and now receives routine skin checkups twice per year.

“The people most affected are not just Baby Boomers but actually young adults,” says Hopwood´s dermatologist, Kavita Mariwalla, director of dermatological surgery at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York. “Tanning before prom or big events has become a ℠norm´ for many teenagers.”

“What they don´t know is that each time they visit a tanning booth, their risk of skin cancer rises.”

While the study showed melanoma in young people is on the rise, researchers found deaths caused by this most deadly type of skin cancer actually declined in this group, writes Louise Chang, MD for WebMD.

“People are now more aware of their skin and of the need to see a doctor when they see changes,” says Brewer. “As a result, many cases may be caught before the cancer advances to a deep melanoma, which is harder to treat.”