03 May 2012

Skin Cancer Rates Rise Among Young

Story first appeared in USA Today.

Young women are eight times more likely to develop skin cancer today than they were 40 years ago -- and young men are four times as likely to battle the disease, according to a study from Mayo Clinic researchers.

In a study of Olmstead County, Minn., residents, Mayo Clinic researchers discovered that first-time diagnosis for cutaneous melanomas -- a dangerous skin cancer with a high probability of spreading -- has soared among 18- to 39-year-olds since 1970.

The increasing popularity of indoor tanning beds could be largely to blame for the spike in the incidence of skin cancer among that age group. Despite public health education campaigns designed to decrease behaviors that lead to excessive UV light exposure, children, adolescents and adults continue to put themselves at risk.

What causes teens and young adults to risk their health for a healthy glow? Peer pressure might be a driving factor.

The number of girls who visit tanning salons increases each year before prom and the start of summer. Dermatologists say contemporary body image ideals do little to help.

Though dermatologists constantly warn patients of the dangers of tanning and reminds them of proper sunscreen use, it's tough to get through to younger patients.

Basal cell carcinomas usually appear as a round, raised patch of pink or white skin. They are usually less dangerous than skin melanomas, which are more likely to spread. Both types of skin cancer have been linked to UV exposure.

Skin melanomas require a more intensive treatment plan. If the cancer is in the early stages, the mole and surrounding tissue is removed.

But if the cancer is diagnosed in a later stage, patients also must undergo up to six weeks of radiation treatment because the cancerous cells can move to lymph nodes surrounding the area. Maryland Melanoma Personal Injury Lawyers say that proper identification and treatment in the early stages can avoid legal and health problems down the road.

The Indoor Tanning Association, a Washington-based group that promotes use of tanning beds, disputes the findings of the Mayo Clinic's study because it says the population of Olmsted County does not fairly represent the U.S. population. Because such a high percentage of the study's population is of "Scandinavian/Nordic ancestry," residents already are at a higher risk for skin cancer, its press release said.

The fact is there is no consensus among researchers regarding the relationship between melanoma skin cancer and UV exposure either from the sun or a sunbed.

A dermatologist who works at the Fox Valley branch of Dermatology Associates of Wisconsin, says a stockpile of scientific studies link excessive UV exposure to an increased incidence of skin cancer.

The population of Olmstead County doesn't perfectly represent the U.S. population, but it is a perfect representation of the type of people flocking to tanning salons.

Everyone -- especially younger generations at risk for skin cancer -- should be more cautious during their time outdoors and should examine their skin for changes in appearance early.

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