Middle-Aged Adults Experiencing Increase In Skin Cancer Incidence
February 5, 2014

Middle-Aged Adults Experiencing Increase In Skin Cancer Incidence

[ Watch the video: Melanoma Rates Skyrocket In Middle-Aged Women ]

April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

The overall incidence of skin cancer among middle aged men and women between 40 and 60 years of age has increased nearly eightfold between the years of 1970 and 2009, according to a study from the Mayo Clinic.

"The most striking finding was among women in that age group,” says dermatologist Jerry Brewer, MD, principal investigator of the study published in a recent issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings. “Women between 40 and 50 showed the highest rates of increase we’ve seen in any group so far.”

In recent years, scientists have expressed a widespread concern about the rising incidence of melanoma, which affects 75,000 Americans annually and results in nearly 9,000 deaths. However, only a few studies have investigated at which age adults are at most risk.

The research team used records from the Rochester Epidemiology Project, a collaboration between healthcare providers in southeastern Minnesota, to conduct a population-based study. The project allows researchers to look at health and illnesses in the community. The team found that the incidence of skin cancer among white, non-Hispanic adults in the 40- to 60-year-old age group increased 4.5-fold among men and 24-fold among women.

Specifically, the study found that women under 50 showed a marked increase in melanoma. These results may drive future research into premenopausal hormonal connection to the disease. They also found that although women were more likely to develop melanoma, men were more likely to have deeper lesions.

The research team also discovered that the overall chances of surviving melanoma increased by 7 percent each year of the study.

“The improved survival rates may be due to increased public awareness, more frequent screenings, and detection of skin cancer at earlier stages,” says Dr. Brewer. “People have more access to dermatologists than before, and we have new tools, like dermoscopy [which includes the widely used ABCDE criteria], to view details of a mole and detect earlier melanomas.”

The steepest observed increase occurred in the last decade of the study period, 2000 to 2009. The researchers speculate that the increase may be connected to the popularization of tanning beds in the 1980s and 1990s.

"There’s been a cultural trend for many decades in which people connect being tan with being fit and even successful,” says Brewer. He explained that this trend could be one of the reasons that melanoma has become so prevalent in the groups he has studied.

This study builds upon previous findings by Brewer's team, which found alarming rates of melanoma in young adults, ages 18 to 39. The team is planning future research to track the trend of melanoma and survival rates among adults over 60.

Dr. Brewer says that skin cancer can be prevented. He gives four examples of actions to take to improve your chance of preventing it.

1. Avoid tanning beds

2. Use sunscreen

3. Perform frequent self-skin examinations

4. Have annual dermatological exams.

People of all ages can use these actions to prevent melanoma. More information can be found to explain the importance of being "sun smart" for kids or teens on the Mayo Clinic's cartoon-style PSA.