Melanoma Rates Rise Steeply in Children and Young Adults by Hootan Melamed

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer. The first symptom typical of melanoma is change in shape, size, feel and color of a mole. Most melanomas have a black or blue shadow around an old mole or a newly appeared mole. The risk of developing melanoma has increased by six folds among young adults as compared to 40 years ago. Women are more prone to developing melanoma than men.

The number of women under 40 who developed melanoma has risen over eight folds between 1970s and 2000s. In men there is a fourfold increase during the same period and under the same age bracket.

Researcher Jerry Brewer, MD, a dermatologist in a recent press release 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 … and in particular, a dramatic rise in women in their 20s and 30s.”

Women are at a higher risk of developing melanoma because they are active participants of activities like sun tanning and tanning beds that elevate the possibility of melanoma.

The focus of research over the last decade is on finding a cancer cure; the new report on the rise of the number of melanoma cases is ironic: when a cure is being sought, the carcinoma is spreading like a wild fire.

Severe sun burns in childhood also increases the chances of melanoma. Children as young as 4, show signs of melanoma which are different from those seen in adults. The rate has risen by 2% in new born to 19 years of age. Though a rare incidence, neonates can develop melanoma through placental transmission from an affected mother. Additionally those children born with ‘bathing trunk nevus’ (a gigantic mole around the gut extending to the back) are at a higher risk of developing melanoma.

Young adults show symptoms that are identifiable with those presented in adults. A comparative study conducted to determine the different rates of melanoma occurrence between states with higher UV exposure and those with less exposure showed that, contrary to rational reasoning, those living in areas with lower UV exposure were more prone to developing melanoma than those exposed to higher UV radiation. The explanation for this discrepancy is the excessive use of tanning beds by women living in states with limited sunshine. Tanning beds’ radiation has artificial UV light which more harmful to the skin than the natural light from the sun.

 

Those who frequently use tanning beds are 74% more likely to develop melanoma. Dr. Hootan Melamed suggests these simple precautions that are simple to follow and effective in protecting the skin from melanoma:

  • Avoid direct sun exposure during peak hours between 10am to 4pm.
  • Wear a sunscreen with SPF 30 or more. Sunscreen provides protection both from UVA and UVB radiation.
  • Examine yourself on a regular basis to detect any new moles or morphology changes in old moles.

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