Melanoma Rates Rising for Boomers, Falling Among Young

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It looks like public health efforts to warn younger Americans about the dangers of tanning beds and sun exposure are paying off.

Rates of the deadly skin cancer known as melanoma have dropped among Americans aged 15 to 44, a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows.

Unfortunately, baby boomers who baked themselves in baby oil during their youth are now paying the price as they age, with more than 70 percent of melanoma cases now being diagnosed in those over 55.

Dr. Doris Day, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said the warnings about the dangers of ultraviolet (UV) ray exposure are working.

“The study shows that melanoma is decreasing slightly among younger adults, which is an indication that our efforts to ban indoor tanning among minors, and educate children and teens about the dangers of sunburns and tanning is having an impact,” she said.

If this trend continues, then cases of melanoma should eventually decline in all age groups, Day added.

“I would hope and expect that as this data is collected over decades, we will also see the older population have a corresponding decrease in melanoma rates as we see their exposure to UV rays decrease in their early years,” she said.

Melanoma is the third most common type of skin cancer, said the study’s lead researcher, Dawn Holman, a behavioral scientist in the CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control. Each year, more than 70,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with it, and more than 9,000 die from it, the report noted.

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SOURCES: Dawn Holman, M.P.H., behavioral scientist, Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Doris Day, M.D., dermatologist, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Jan. 31, 2018, JAMA Dermatology, online

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