Who is At Risk for Melanoma?

Rise in melanoma in young adults

The risk of developing the most dangerous type of skin cancer, melanoma, is now more than six times higher among young adults than it was 40 years ago, and women may be especially vulnerable. In fact, it is one of the most common cancers in people under 30. Before the age of 40, the risk is higher for women; after the age of 40 the risk is higher in men.

A new study shows the number of melanomas found among women under 40 years old increased by more than eightfold between the 1970s and 2000s. Cases of melanoma among men under 40 also increased by more than fourfold during the same time period. The findings are alarming, considering the rates of many other types of cancers are declining.

Who is at risk for melanoma?

Researchers say women may be hardest hit by melanoma because they are more likely to participate in activities that increase the risk of melanoma, such as using tanning beds or outside sun tanning.

Researchers say the best way to reduce the risk of melanoma and other types of skin cancer is to limit exposure to ultraviolet radiation from tanning beds or the sun. People with high levels of UV exposure from these sources are at greater risk for all types of skin cancer. The amount of UV exposure a person gets depends on the strength of the light, how long the skin is exposed, and whether the skin is covered with clothing or sunscreen.

Some of George Wooming, M.D.’s suggested ways to protect skin and reduce the risk of melanoma and other skin cancers include:

  • Stay out of the sun during peak hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Wear protective clothing with a tight weave, including a hat with a brim to shade your ears and neck, a shirt with sleeves to cover arms, and pants.
  • Use a sunscreen every day with an SPF of at least 30. Choose a sunscreen that protects against both types of ultraviolet radiation, UVA and UVB.
  • Examine regularly for changes on the skin, such as new moles or changes to old moles, and talk to a dermatologist about having a skin exam done.