Melanomas; A Growing Problem and not Just for the Elderly

It is a commonly held misconception that skin cancer and melanomas are mostly a disease of the elderly. However, a new study from the Mayo Clinic published this month in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings informs us that females under the age of 40 are the largest section of the population of melanoma sufferers, and the numbers are growing.

Olmsted County Minnesota was the center for this study. Where all medical records going back many years were reviewed. The researchers were listing and counting first-time melanoma diagnoses in people aged between 18 and 39. They found cases increasing in number by eight times for females and four times for males. The stark conclusion of the authors was summed up as, “We need to get away from the belief that skin cancer is a disease more prevalent in old age.”

Malignant Melanoma

The surprising statistics could be explained by lifestyle choices of the groups involved. Young females are much more prone to the image enhancing techniques of electrical tanning than are young males. This study is more evidence of the rise and rise of skin cancer, in contrast to the decline of most other common cancers. This trend was lauded in a recent major government study. Experts at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, are very worried by the burgeoning melanoma rates caused by early exposure to sun and the fashion trend for sun beds.

Not so surprising, however, is the denial of spokespersons for the self-tanning machine industry of the link between their products and the rise of melanoma numbers. They insist that there is no proof of an immediate causal link between sun bed time ultraviolet (UV) exposure and later melanomas. This denial flies in the face of the National Institute of Health pronouncement that excessive UV exposure boosts the risk of skin cancers. Ultraviolet radiation comes from the sun and sun beds and causes damage to the skin cells.

[box type=”important”]Skin cancer is most common in the over 50’s female population, and melanoma is the worst kind of cancer because it is potentially fatal. Monitor moles on the skin for any changes and look for any unusual new growths. Fair-skinned people are at particular risk, and the good folks of Olmsted are mostly Caucasian. [/box]

The Jersey Shore Effect

Sometimes called the ‘Jersey Shore effect’, pale white females are susceptible to the media hype around tanned bikini-clad beauty. In our postmodern society, health is still equated with deep skin color. Of course, like smoking, the future possibility of skin cancer seems a remote unthinkable, compared to those glamorous model looks. It isn’t just the ‘baby boomers’ at risk. Every time a young person uses a tanning bed before the prom or a big date, they are increasing the risk of skin cancer in later life.

Genetic risk factors include moles in the family and close relatives with skin cancer. While several childhood cases of sunburn can also weaken the skin’s natural protection against cancerous cell.

Claire Al-Aufi

Claire Al-Aufi is a contributing author for Hive Health Media who provides updates on health and fitness news.

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