Increase in melanoma cases among young American women

11 Jul 2008

Cases of the deadliest form of skin cancer are increasing among young women but not men in the United States, according to a paper published this week in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology. 

Between 1980 and 2004, the annual incidence of melanoma among young women increased by 50% from 9.4 cases to 13.9 cases per 100,000 women.  Increasing trends were also observed for thicker and later-stage melanomas, suggesting that the increase is not simply the result of changes in surveillance for this disease.

Mark Purdue and colleagues studied melanoma incidence between 1973 and 2004 among Caucasian men and women aged 15-39 using collected data from the NCI’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) Program, a network of regional cancer registries recording all newly diagnosed cancers in each area.   

The team note that melanoma incidence among young men did not change over this time period.  The cause of the incidence increase in women is unclear.  

Additional research is needed to investigate whether changes among young women in recreational sun exposure or tanning bed use, which are risk factors for melanoma, are responsible.

Journal of Investigative Dermatology