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More Young Women Get Skin Cancer

Study Shows Increase in Melanoma Among Young Women
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 10, 2008 -- A new data review suggests that melanoma is on the rise among young women, but not among young men.

Researchers looked at data from women aged 15 to 39.

The team, led by Mark Purdue of the National Institutes of Health, examined data from a network of cancer registries across the U.S. in the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program.

The analysis focused on whites diagnosed from 1973 to 2004.

From the 1990s, an increased incidence of melanomas was found in women. In men, the incidence held fairly steady between 1980 and 2004.

Data reviewers noticed a greater increase in young women having thicker and metastatic melanomas during that time period. The researchers suggest that the increase is not just the result of changes in the way the medical community tracks the disease.

Researchers say it's not entirely clear why more and more young women seem to be getting skin cancer.

Separate studies have looked at sun damage trends. Here is some of what the researchers cited:

  • More and more people in the U.S. are getting sunburn, although trends by age groups have not been reported.
  • 16- to 18-year-olds had a higher incidence of sunburn and reported that they spent more days at the beach in 2004 then they did in 1998.
  • More young people in the U.S., mostly women, are using tanning beds. Studies suggest that UV rays from tanning beds and tanning lamps can be just as damaging as sun rays.

Melanoma is the deadliest type of skin cancer. Ultraviolent radiation is a main risk factor for developing melanoma.

The study is published in the July 10 edition of the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

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