Skin cancer increasingly common in teens and young adults

May 7, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- With summer just around the corner, pediatricians at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center are sounding the alarm on a disturbing trend: A growing number of teenagers and young adults diagnosed with skin cancer.

While unprotected sun exposure, indoor tanning and repeated sun burns at any age can all lead to , experts say, sun damage in childhood fuels a lifetime of risk.

During May — Skin Cancer Prevention and Detection Month — pediatric dermatologists are reminding parents that childhood sun exposure is the most preventable risk factor for both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers.

“A burn at age 25 is not as damaging as a burn at the tender age of 4 so we have a critical window in childhood to minimize life-time risk,” says Bernard Cohen, M.D., director of pediatric dermatology at Hopkins Children’s.

Prevention among infants and children

Cohen advises the parents and other caregivers of young children to:

-- limit sun exposure to mornings and late afternoons when the sun is weaker
-- use broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher on the entire body and long-sleeved clothing and wide-rim hats during any sun exposure
-- apply broad-spectrum sunscreen on all exposed areas year-round

Prevention in teenagers and pre-teens

One group of particular concern are those between the ages of 12 and 18, whose relative independence and fondness for tanning drive them to use indoor and put them at high risk for melanoma and other forms of skin cancer. Tanning beds are a constant threat, Cohen warns. Classified as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization, tanning beds pack more punch than the sun because they deliver more concentrated doses of UV radiation, Cohen says.

Although many states and municipalities have passed laws requiring parental consent for minors to use tanning beds, and other states have banned indoor tanning altogether, such laws are not uniformly or tightly enforced, Cohen says.

Pediatricians, Cohen says, who have a captive audience of teenagers and parents during annual well-child visits should make a point of discussing the dangers of indoor tanning and irresponsible sun exposure. They also should perform full-body checks for suspicious moles and teach patients and parents the “ABCD’s” of skin cancer detection: asymmetrical shape, border irregularities, color changes and diameter growth.

Research conducted in the last 10 years has repeatedly shown a growing number of young adults developing skin cancer. Most recently, a Mayo Clinic study found a six-fold jump in the rates of melanoma — the deadliest form of skin cancer — among 18-to-39-year-olds over the last 40 years. Women had an eight-fold increase, compared with a four-fold increase in men. The researchers attribute the gender difference to higher tan-seeking behaviors among young women, including outdoor and .

An earlier study, published in 2008 in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, found that the incidence of melanoma in males increased from 4.7 per 100,000 in 1973 to 7.7 cases per 100,000 in 2004. The incidence among females jumped from 5.5 to 14 per 100,000.

Explore further: Tanning beds could provide a greater risk than originally thought: new study

Related Stories

Tanning beds could provide a greater risk than originally thought: new study

October 10, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- A new study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology has found that, despite previous information, the UVA radiation used in tanning beds may cause more damage to the skin that was originally ...

Resist temptation to tan, despite winter doldrums

December 30, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Don’t let winter’s lack of sunshine lure you into a tanning bed. 

Invasive melanoma may be more likely in children than adults

October 5, 2011
A Johns Hopkins Children's Center study of young people with melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer, has found that some children have a higher risk of invasive disease than adults.

Increased tanning bed use increases risk for deadly skin cancers

October 24, 2011
Researchers confirmed an association between tanning bed use and an increased risk for three common skin cancers — basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, according to results presented at the 10th ...

Study finds dramatic rise in skin cancer in young adults

April 2, 2012
Even as the rates of some cancers are falling, Mayo Clinic is seeing an alarming trend: the dramatic rise of skin cancer, especially among people under 40. According to a study by Mayo Clinic researchers published in the ...

Recommended for you

Outdoor light at night linked with increased breast cancer risk in women

August 17, 2017
Women who live in areas with higher levels of outdoor light at night may be at higher risk for breast cancer than those living in areas with lower levels, according to a large long-term study from Harvard T.H. Chan School ...

Scientists develop novel immunotherapy technology for prostate cancer

August 17, 2017
A study led by scientists at The Wistar Institute describes a novel immunotherapeutic strategy for the treatment of cancer based on the use of synthetic DNA to directly encode protective antibodies against a cancer specific ...

Toxic formaldehyde is produced inside our own cells, scientists discover

August 16, 2017
New research has revealed that some of the toxin formaldehyde in our bodies does not come from our environment - it is a by-product of an essential reaction inside our own cells. This could provide new targets for developing ...

Cell cycle-blocking drugs can shrink tumors by enlisting immune system in attack on cancer

August 16, 2017
In the brief time that drugs known as CDK4/6 inhibitors have been approved for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer, doctors have made a startling observation: in certain patients, the drugs—designed to halt cancer ...

Researchers find 'switch' that turns on immune cells' tumor-killing ability

August 16, 2017
Molecular biologists led by Leonid Pobezinsky and his wife and research collaborator Elena Pobezinskaya at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have published results that for the first time show how a microRNA molecule ...

Popular immunotherapy target turns out to have a surprising buddy

August 16, 2017
The majority of current cancer immunotherapies focus on PD-L1. This well studied protein turns out to be controlled by a partner, CMTM6, a previously unexplored molecule that is now suddenly also a potential therapeutic target. ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet May 07, 2012
Increasingly common in teens and young adults ? It's extremely rare to get skin cancer at that age.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.