Melanoma Cases On The Rise, Young Women At Greatest Risk

Melanoma cases have increased sixfold in the last forty years according to a new report that also found women were most at risk.

The Mayo Clinic study, published in the April issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, revealed that first-time diagnoses of melanoma in patients aged 18 – 39 have increased eightfold in women since 1970. In men, such diagnoses have increased fourfold.

Not for the first time, tanning salons are bearing the brunt of the blame, as consumers attempt to achieve a Jersey Shore-esque orange glow. Many young people seem undeterred by the prospect of skin cancer, and experts argue that a misconception about melanoma is not helping. The Mayo Clinic report’s co-author, dermatologist Jerry Brewer, says:

“We need to get away from the idea that skin cancer is an older person’s disease.”

Gender-specific behaviors are also proving a major factor. The report notes:

“Young women are more likely than young men to participate in activities that increase risk for melanoma, including voluntary exposure to artificial sunlamps.”

The steady rise in skin cancer is not really new news. A government study published last Wednesday reported that while the majority of common cancers are on the wane, the number of melanoma cases continues to rise.

Yet there are defenders of tanning beds – unsurprisingly, the Indoor Tanning Association is one. Executive director John Overstreet told USA Today:

“There is no consensus among researchers regarding the relationship between melanoma skin cancer and UV exposure either from the sun or a sunbed. I expect more from the Mayo Clinic. There is no direct link from their report to tanning beds.”

That argument flies in the face of findings at the National Institutes of Health, where experts insist excessive exposure to ultraviolet light increases risk for all skin cancers.

Do you use a tanning bed and, if so, how often do you top up?