The incidence of cutaneous melanoma is increasing among people aged younger than 40 years, and women are at higher risk than men, according to study results published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
The incidence of melanoma increased eightfold among women and fourfold among men from 1970 to 2009, according to study results.
In the population-based study, Mayo Clinic researchers examined patient records from the Rochester Epidemiology Project, a database of all patient care in Olmsted County, Minn.
Researchers identified 256 young adults — characterized as those aged 18 to 39 years — who were diagnosed with melanoma between 1970 and 2009.
Overall age- and sex-adjusted incidence was 16.9 cases per 100,000 person-years, researchers said. The age-adjusted incidence was higher for females than males (23.2 vs. 10.8 cases per 100,000 person-years, P<.001).
“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 SEER] database, and in particular, a dramatic rise in women in their 20s and 30s,” said lead investigator Jerry D. Brewer, MD, a Mayo Clinic dermatologist.
Gender-specific behaviors that lead to different ultraviolet light exposure may explain the findings, researchers said. They pointed to results of telephone surveys that suggest young women are “much more likely” than young men to undergo indoor tanning.
“Our results emphasize the importance of active interventions to decrease risk factors associated with melanoma in young individuals,” researchers wrote. “In addition, skin cancer screening examinations in young adults are strongly recommended.”
Researchers also found mortality rates from melanoma have decreased over the years. The lifetime risk of mortality is higher in men than in women, but the study found the opposite was true in young adults. Researchers speculate early detection and medical care likely have contributed to the decrease in mortality rates.