Melanoma update: Incidence rates continue to rise, especially among young women

September 1, 2008

Incidence reporting data show that melanoma is on the rise, particularly in young women. However, the numbers were calculated using a new method, and the decline may have been an artifact of the new methodology, an expert says.

Key Points

That is exactly the case, according to Darrell Rigel, M.D., clinical professor of dermatology at New York University, New York.

Disturbing numbers

It is estimated that there will be 62,580 cases of invasive melanoma in 2008, and 54,020 cases of in situ melanoma. In 2007, there were an estimated 59,940 invasive cases and 48,710 in situ cases.

That was an apparent decline from 62,190 estimated invasive cases in 2006 - a decline that now appears to be due to the calculation methods rather than an actual reduction in cases.

Tanning beds

"The most worrisome trend seen in the melanoma incidence figures is a rise in the rate for young women, and common sense suggests that is due to tanning beds," Dr. Rigel tells Dermatology Times.

Dr. Rigel says that National Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) data show that, while the annual incidence rate of melanoma was 4.9 cases per 100,000 population among women ages 20 to 24 years between 1987 and 1989, it was 7.5 cases per 100,000 between 2000 and 2002.

Among women 30 to 34 years old, the annual rate of melanoma was 15 cases per 100,000 between 1987 and 1989, compared to 23 cases per 100,000 between 2000 and 2002.

Forty percent of women between the ages of 20 and 24 years report in surveys that they have used a tanning bed in the past year, Dr. Rigel says.

Despite the continued increase in incidence of melanoma, and a reluctance among many young women to give up a risky behavior, Dr. Rigel says he is not pessimistic about the very public campaigns the American Academy of Dermatology has been waging to educate people about melanoma and the risks of tanning beds.

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