More young women dying from melanoma

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Skin cancer cases are up dramatically in young women, according to a new study.

Researchers examined 256 cases of melanoma in people from 1970 to 2009. Of those cases in men and women ages 18 to 39, the biggest increase in the past four decades was in women in their 20s and 30s.

"The risk of any one individual getting melanoma in 1935 was one in 1,500. Today it's one in 60," said UAMS assistant professor Dr. Shane Speights.

Dr. Speights said the disease is dangerous, but easily preventable. "There is a genetic component, about 10 percent of cases, but largely, the way you can prevent or reduce the risk of getting melanoma is simply limiting sun exposure, specifically tanning beds, and using sunscreen."

Dr. Speights said people might be surprised at the group who is most at risk.

"You would assume those individuals that get constant sun exposure are at a higher risk of getting melanoma, and that's not necessarily true. They are at risk of skin cancer, but those that are at higher risk of melanoma are the guys and girls that are working at the office, and take their week-long trip to Florida once or twice a year and get sunburned."

Researchers from the study cited sunburns during childhood and indoor tanning as primary factors of the increase. "I'm not a fan of tanning beds. They do increase the risk of melanoma. A lot of people think it's a safe way to get what they call a base tan. Remember, there is no such thing as a safe tan. Any of that is actually skin damage."

Dr. Speights encourages people who see anything abnormal on their skin to get it checked out before it's too late. "It may look like it's just a couple of centimeters in size or so, but really it could be a lot deeper under the skin, and even could have moved to other areas of the body by the time it's diagnosed."

In addition to avoiding indoor tanning, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend using sunscreen with a sun protective factor (SPF) of 15 or higher, and seeking shade as much as possible between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., the hours most hazardous for UV exposure.

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