Melanoma Rates Increase Among Young Women

Kevin Berman, MD Health Guide
  • The official news from the federal health officials is not good for younger women: the numbers for that demographic group are rising at an alarming rate for melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer.  At the same time, cases for younger men have leveled off.


    Statistics show that since 1980 melanoma cases for younger women have increased as much as 50 percent.  One expert, Mark Purdue, a research fellow at the National Cancer Institute, was quoted in The Washington Post saying "One possible explanation is increases among young women of recreational sun exposure or tanning bed use.  Both of these things have been identified as risk factors. It's possible increases in these two behaviors may be responsible."

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    Officials speculate that because young men typically do not use tanning salons, that might be one reason for the drop in melanoma cases for that group. 


    Also quoted in The Washington Post was C. William Hanke, President of the American Dermatology.  He indicated that "the findings should serve as a reminder to young women about the dangers of unprotected outdoor sun exposure and indoor tanning."  He had a strong warning for younger women: "The take-home message is: Unprotected outdoor ultraviolet exposure is dangerous," Hanke said. "Ultraviolet radiation is a carcinogen. If you bathe your skin in the ultraviolet light carcinogen long enough, skin cancer is going to develop."


    According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 62,000 new melanoma cases are diagnosed in the United States every year, and over 8,000 people will die from that type of cancer. 


    Purdue and his colleagues are worried that public education campaigns warning about the dangers of too much sun causing melanoma are falling on deaf ears.


    However, not everyone agrees with the allegations that tanning salons play a vital part in causing melanoma.  Sarah Longwell, a spokeswoman for the Indoor Tanning Association, was quoted in the Washington Post as saying, "For people to talk about indoor tanning as a cause of melanoma shows they haven't looked at the science on the subject.  It's shocking to make such a claim. There have been no scientific studies that show that indoor tanning causes melanoma. It's almost a reckless claim. It's an overt effort to slander the indoor tanning industry."

Published On: June 08, 2009