Young Patients Drive Spike in Melanoma Incidence Rate

Melanoma incidence increased 250% in children, adolescents and young adults since 1973.

Melanoma incidence increased 250% in children, adolescents and young adults since 1973.

Young people have driven an exponential spike in new cases of skin cancer over the last 40 years, according to research by the Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RCPI).

The melanoma incidence rate jumped by 250% in children, adolescents, and young adults from 1973-2011. Along with the increase in incidence, survival rates have grown as well, rising from 80% during the time period of 1973-1980 to 95% in 2011.

In examining SEER data, RPCI researchers found that female young adults are at particular risk for melanoma, potentially as a result of high risk behaviors such as tanning.

"Given the epidemic rise of melanoma cases diagnosed among children, adolescents and young adults, it is imperative that new research initiatives are implemented, genetic and environmental risk factors identified, and effective prevention and screening strategies employed," lead author Demytra Mitsis, MD, said in a press release.

The researchers examined 35,726 melanoma cases from 1973 to 2011 in patients under 40 years of age. The data showed 98% of melanoma cases were diagnosed in adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15-39 years, with 32 years as the median age.

Females represented 57% of reported cases from 1973 to 1980, which jumped to 65.2% of reported cases from 2001 to 2011. Noninvasive, early stage cases jumped from 4% of all melanoma cases from 1973-1980 to more than 20% of all cases in 2011.

"The reality is that melanoma is the third most common cancer in those 15 to 39 years old, and these numbers have been steadily increasing,” senior author Nikhil Khushalani, MD, said in a press release. “This is a national problem that needs to be addressed, and it begins with awareness and effective prevention strategies.”