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Melanoma Rates Continue to Rise in Young Women

Posted: July 11, 2008

Increasing numbers of younger women continue to receive diagnoses of the most dangerous form of skin cancer, even as the rate of new cases has leveled off in younger men, federal health officials have reported.

An analysis of government cancer statistics from 1973 to 2004 found that the rate of new melanoma cases in younger women had jumped 50% since 1980 but did not increase for younger men in that period. "It's worrying," said Mark Purdue, a research fellow at the National Cancer Institute, who led the analysis published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology. "What we are seeing in young adults right now could foretell a much larger number of melanoma cases in older women."

The new research did not examine the reasons for the trend, but Purdue said it could be the result of such factors as women spending more time outdoors and engaging in indoor tanning. Young women are much more likely than young men to frequent tanning salons, Purdue and others noted.

Tanning bed link?

"One possible explanation is increases among young women of recreational sun exposure or tanning bed use," Purdue said. "Both of these things have been identified as risk factors. It's possible increases in these two behaviors may be responsible."