More Young People Being Diagnosed With Skin Cancer

Posted on August 10, 2005

A study by May Clinic researchers has found an 74% increase in the reported number of basal and squamous cell carcinomas in people under forty since the late 1970s. Some of the data links this increase to sunbathing.

Mayo Clinic researchers studied only basal and squamous cell carcinomas, cancers that are almost always curable and that together afflict 1 million Americans a year, according to the article, published in today's Journal of the American Medical Association. The cancers, caused largely by overexposure to ultraviolet light from the sun, usually develop in older people who have spent many years outdoors.

In the study, doctors focused on people under 40 in Olmsted County, Minn. From 1976-1979 to 2000-2003, the combined rate of the two diseases grew from 19 cases per 100,000 people to 33 per 100,000 � a 74% increase.

Although up to 90% of such cancers typically appear on the head and neck, doctors in the study found 40% of skin cancers on other parts of the body, a change that probably reflects the effect of excessive sunbathing.

Leslie Christenson, a Mayo Clinic dermatologic surgeon, told the BBC that her findings link the increase to tanning. And while basal and squamous cell carcinomas are not usually fatal (1,000 - 2,000 deaths per year) they can be disfiguring.
Christenson says it's possible that some of the increase in basal and squamous cell carcinomas could be caused by increased screenings. But, she says, her findings suggest that tanning probably plays a more important role.

Basal and squamous cell carcinomas can be disfiguring, even if they rarely spread or turn fatal, Christenson says. And they kill about 1,000 to 2,000 people a year, the American Cancer Society says.

"For a preventable cancer, that's too bad," Christenson says.

Not only does tanning increase the risk of skin cancer but it also causes wrinkles. Staying away from tanning booths, avoiding the peak sun hours and wearing sun block are all good ideas if you want to keep healthy looking skin and reduce your risk of getting skin cancer.