Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer and it is rising rapidly among young adults in the US.
The study looked for first-time diagnoses of melanoma in patients aged 18 to 39 living in Olmsted County, Minnesota, from 1970 to 2009.
Researchers from the Mayo Clinic found the incidence of melanoma increased eightfold among young women and fourfold among young men.
Study leader Dr. Jerry Brewer, said: ‘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 Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Result (SEER) database, and in particular, a dramatic rise in women in their 20s and 30s.’
Researchers also found mortality rates from the disease have improved over the years, likely due to early detection of skin cancer and prompt medical care.
The lifetime risk of melanoma was found to be higher in males than females, but the opposite was true in young adults and adolescents.
‘People are now more aware of their skin and of the need to see a doctor when they see changes,’ Dr Brewer said.
‘As a result, many cases may be caught before the cancer advances to a deep melanoma, which is harder to treat.’
Over-exposure to strong sunlight without protection is another risk-factor for melanoma.
The researchers speculated that the use of indoor tanning beds is a key culprit in the rising cancer rate in young women.
‘A recent study reported that people who use indoor tanning beds frequently are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma, and we know young women are more likely to use them than young men,’ Dr Brewer said.
‘The results of this study emphasize the importance of active interventions to decrease risk factors for skin cancer and, in particular, to continue to alert young women that indoor tanning has carcinogenic effects that increase the risk of melanoma.’