Melanoma occurs in young adults – and it’s increasing. Recently, researchers from the Mayo Clinic published compelling data indicating that rates of new cases of melanoma (skin cancer) increased among 18-39 year olds in Olmsted County between 1970 and 2009. And the rates increased quite a bit over the last forty years: 8-fold among women and 4-fold among men. This is a large increase: for example, in women, between 1970-1979 there were 5.4 cases of melanoma per 100,000 person-years compared to 2000-2009 when there were 43.5 cases of melanoma per 100,000 person-years. The average age at diagnosis was thirty years – in other words, half of these young adults were less than thirty years old at diagnosis.
The American Academy of Dermatology designates the first Monday in May as Melanoma Monday® to raise awareness of melanoma and other types of skin cancer, and to encourage early detection through self-exams. Skin cancer is the only cancer that can be seen on the surface of the skin. By examining your skin for any changes, you can detect early warning signs. The first line of defense against skin cancer starts with you. Ask a dermatologist how often you should examine your skin for signs of skin cancer and consult a dermatologist if you notice anything suspicious. Always have a spot checked if it’s changing, painful, bleeds easily, or is not healing. These simple steps can help ensure that skin cancer is diagnosed in its earliest, most treatable stage.