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Last updated on April 18, 2014 at 17:24 EDT

Dramatic Skin Cancer Rise in Young Adults

April 5, 2012

(Ivanhoe Newswire) –  Spring is in the air and people of all ages, are trading in their overcoats and gloves for shorts and tank tops — exposing their skin to ultra-violet rays and skin cancer.

Even as the rates of some cancers are falling, the Mayo Clinic is seeing an alarming new trend: the dramatic rise of skin cancer among people under the age of 40. According to researchers the incidence of melanoma has escalated, and young women are being hit the hardest.

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.

Researchers also found mortality rates from the disease have improved over the years, likely due to early detection of skin cancer and prompt medical care.

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

The researchers speculate that the use of indoor tanning beds is a key culprit in the rising cancer rate in young women.

“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. Despite abundant information about the dangers of tanning beds, he adds, young women continue to use them.

“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,” says Dr. Brewer.

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic, April 2012