Melanoma cases rise among kids, teens
WASHINGTON U. – ST. LOUIS (US) — The incidence of melanoma among children and teens has been significantly increasing in the US from 1973-2009—an average of 2 percent per year, report researchers.
“Melanoma is rare in children between the ages of 0 and 19 years with just 400-500 individuals diagnosed annually in the US,” says Kimberly J. Johnson, assistant professor at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis and senior author of the study.
“Similar to what we’re seeing in adults, rates have increased over the past several decades,” she says. “Although the exact reasons for this trend are 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.”
The study will be published online April 15 in the journal Pediatrics. Researchers will also present the findings on Tuesday, April 9, at the annual meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research in Washington, DC.
Lead author Jeannette R. Wong of the National Cancer Institute started the study as a student in the Master of Public Health Program at the Brown School. In addition to Wong and Johnson, co-authors include Jenine K. Harris, assistant professor at the Brown School, and Carlos Rodriguez-Galindo of Harvard University.
“The study will help put melanoma on the radar of pediatricians,” Johnson says.
A large percentage of a person’s lifetime exposure to UV radiation occurs during childhood. Children and adolescents spend more time outdoors, especially in the summer months, and may receive three times more UV rays than adults. In addition, an individual’s childhood UV exposure is a risk factor for melanoma later in life.
Johnson and the researchers used Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results data from nine US cancer registries.
Among the risk factors for melanoma are fair skin, light-colored hair and eyes, family history, prevalence of such things as birthmarks, moles, or blemishes, and an increased exposure to ultraviolet radiation.
“The true impact of this research will be to increase awareness of the dangers of too much exposure to the sun and artificial tanning,” Johnson says.
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