Age and Risk
Melanoma used to be considered a disease of older people, since about half of melanomas occur in people over the age of 50, with the median age at diagnosis being 59. However, 25% of melanoma cases occur in people under age 40.
While the number of children diagnosed with melanoma is not changing significantly, the number of children dying from melanoma has fallen significantly over the last 36 years. (1) This improvement is thought to be the result of better education and screening.
Young people are at greater risk if there is a family history of melanoma, therefore, even young children should be screened in this circumstance.
Teen and Young Adults
Melanoma incidence in white men aged 15 to 39 has increased from 4.7 cases per 100,000 people in 1973 to 7.7 per 100,000 in 2004. But at the same time among white women, cases rose from 5.5 to 13.9 per 100,000. The upsurge among young women is thought to be due to behavioral changes, specifically an increased amount of sun tanning and the use of tanning beds. (2)
In adult females after the age of 60, the melanoma rate increases. Overall, however, men have a greater lifetime risk of melanoma than women.
1. Lewis KG. Trends in pediatric melanoma mortality in the United States, 1968 through 2004. Dermatol Surg. 2008;34(2):152-159.
2. The Journal of Investigative Dermatology, June 2008)
Over the past 30 years, the incidence of melanoma has increased much more sharply in young women than in young men.
This upsurge among young women goes along with the reports of increased exposure to ultraviolet radiation from sun tanning and from the use of tanning beds.