Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Melanoma/Skin Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Melanoma Rates Skyrocketing in Young Adults

Melanoma Risk Now 6 Times Higher in People Under 40
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

April 2, 2012 -- The risk of developing the most dangerous type of skin cancer is now more than six times higher among young adults than it was 40 years ago, and women may be especially vulnerable.

A new study shows the number of melanomas found among women under 40 years old increased by more than eightfold between the 1970s and 2000s. Cases of melanoma among men under 40 also increased by more than fourfold during the same time period.

“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 ... and in particular, a dramatic rise in women in their 20s and 30s," says researcher Jerry Brewer, MD, a Mayo Clinic dermatologist, in a news release.

Researchers say women may be hardest hit by melanoma because they are more likely to participate in activities that increase the risk of melanoma, such as using tanning beds or suntanning.

They say the findings are alarming, considering the rates of many other types of cancers are declining.

Melanoma on the Rise

In the study, published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, researchers looked at the number of melanomas diagnosed for the first time among people ages 18 to 39 from 1970 to 2009 in Olmsted County, Minn.

Overall, the results showed melanoma rates increased among men and women by more than sixfold during the study period.

The incidence of melanoma was eight times higher among young women and six times higher among young men in 2009 than in 1970.

Researchers say the dramatic rise in melanoma rates among the young is most likely due to increased use of tanning beds since 1970, as well as other unsafe exposures to ultraviolet light, such as severe sunburns in childhood.

While the study showed melanoma in young people is on the rise, researchers found deaths caused by this most deadly type of skin cancer actually declined in this group.

"People are now more aware of their skin and of the need to see a doctor when they see changes," says Brewer. "As a result, many cases may be caught before the cancer advances to a deep melanoma, which is harder to treat."

Today on WebMD

Malignant melanoma
About 40-50 percent of those who live to be 65 may get it. Here’s how to spot early.
Woman checking out tan lines
There’s a dark side to that strive for beauty. See them here.
sauteed cherry tomatoes
Fight cancer one plate at a time.
Lung cancer xray
See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
12 Ways to Protect Your Skin from Melanoma
precancerous lesions slideshow
Do You Know Your Melanoma ABCs
15 Cancer Symptoms Men Ignore
screening tests for men
Vitamin D
Is That Mole Skin Cancer
Brilliant sun rays