16:18 PM

Melanoma Down Among Young Adults, Up Among Boomers

Each year, more than 70,000 people are diagnosed with melanoma in the U.S. – the deadliest type of skin cancer – and more than 9,000 people die from the disease. Regionally, more than 150 people are diagnosed and treated at Lehigh Valley Cancer Institute for skin cancer, including melanoma.

When researchers recently looked at melanoma rates across different age groups, they found that fewer young adults are developing melanoma, but that rates are rising among older adults.

“Comparing these broad age groups, younger people have benefited from greater awareness about risks from ultraviolet (UV) light exposure (from sun and indoor tanning), and have had much better options in sunscreen and sunblock products throughout their lives,” says oncologist Suresh Nair, MD, Physician-in-Chief, Lehigh Valley Cancer Institute.

Rates increasing for adults ages 55 and up

Researchers analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Cancer Institute. Specifically, they looked at melanoma rates among non-Hispanic whites, because this group has the highest risk for the disease.

When researchers looked at melanoma rates by age, they found that between 2005 and 2014, there was a decrease in the incidence of melanoma among men and women ages 15 to 44 years old. But the rate of melanoma increased significantly among adults ages 55 and older.

Skin cancer prevention efforts, such as discouraging the use of indoor tanning and protecting against sunburn, aimed at teens and young adults have been successful. But according to researchers, efforts to encourage behaviors that reduce the risk for skin cancer should be promoted among all age groups.

Wear sunscreen, seek shade and shield your skin

No matter your age, here’s how you can reduce your risk for melanoma:

  • Use broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or higher. Reapply every two hours or after swimming or sweating.
  • Seek shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Wear sun-protective clothing.

“Regularly examine your body for signs of skin cancer,” Nair says. “If you notice any spot that changes, itches or bleeds, see your primary care provider or a dermatologist. The sooner skin cancer is diagnosed, the greater your treatment options.”

On May 16, you are invited to attend Lehigh Valley Cancer Institute’s community forum, Advances in Melanoma Cancer Care. Learn more and register at LVHN.org/melanomaevent.