Women under 40 appear to be experiencing sharp rises in the two most common forms of skin cancer, prompting concerns over tanning beds and calls for bolstering skin cancer prevention.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests the rates of basal cell and squamous cell cancer have nearly tripled for women under 40 since the late 1970s.
"There was a disproportionate increase in basal cell carcinoma in young women," states the study, authored by Dr. Leslie J. Christenson and colleagues.
The study examined about 500 comprehensive patient medical records captured through the Rochester Epidemiology Project in Minnesota. It focused on women under 40 who were diagnosed with either of the two non-melanoma forms of skin cancer.
Results indicated basal cell and squamous cell cancer rates among women under 40 jumped from 13 per 100,000 in 1976 to 32 per 100,000 in 2003. There was a significant increase in incidence of squamous cell cancer but not basal cell cancer in men under 40 over the study period.
If identified early, both of these types of cancer can be removed and treated with more success than melanoma.
The researchers suggest the large difference in skin cancer rates between men and women may be due in part to women's use of tanning beds. "The use of a tanning bed has been shown to be a risk factor for non-melanoma skin cancer in young women," the study notes. "This may contribute importantly to the increasing incidence of this cancer, however, we do not have access to information about use of tanning beds by our study population."
The investigators also point to differences in attitudes towards skin health between men and women as a factor. "Women are assumed to play close attention to their appearance and the health of the skin and, thus, seek medical attention sooner than men do," the researchers relate.
The findings highlight the importance of skin cancer prevention.
"Our results... emphasize the need to focus on the prevention of skin cancer in the very young so that the increasing incidence of a potentially preventable cancer can be halted," the researchers write.
The best way to prevent skin cancer is to protect yourself from the sun. Here are some useful tips on how to do that:
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