Melanoma on rise among children

April 15, 2013

While still rare, the incidence of melanoma in children is trending upward, according to researchers who presented their findings at the annual meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research.

 

While still rare, the incidence of melanoma in children is trending upward, according to researchers who presented their findings at the annual meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research.

Using data from nine U.S. cancer registries, investigators with the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis and Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., found the incidence of childhood and adolescent melanoma has increased an average of 2 percent per year from 1973 to 2009 (95 percent confidence interval, 1.4-2.7), according to the study abstract.

Girls had higher incidence rates than did boys, as did those ages 15 to 19 compared to younger children. Boys had higher incidence rates on the trunk and face, while girls had higher rates on the lower limbs and hips.

“The only decreased incidence trend we observed was among 15- to 19-year-olds in the high UVB exposure group from 1985 through 2009,” authors noted.

Melanoma remains rare in adolescents and children, with 400 to 500 cases diagnosed in the United States each year, according to a news release. But rates have increased in the past several decades, as they have with the adult population.

Senior author Kimberly J. Johnson, Ph.D., noted that while the exact reason for the increase in melanoma in children is unclear, “parents should be vigilant about helping children and adolescents reduce their chance of developing melanoma by practicing sun-protective behaviors and avoiding tanning beds.”

Researchers concluded that further individual-level studies would be required to determine the reasons for the upward trends in melanoma incidence rates.

The study was published online April 15 in Pediatrics.