Study Finds Dramatic Rise in Skin Cancer Among Young Adults

A new study from the Mayo Clinic found an alarming increase in skin cancer among young adults, and the reason may be their persistent efforts to tan.  Current estimates are that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. More than 3.5 million skin cancers in more than 2 million people are diagnosed annually

Home Tanning Beds

Published in the April issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, the study reports that between the years 1970 and 2009, the incidence of melanoma increased eightfold among young women and fourfold among young men ages 18 to 39. Although men generally have a higher lifetime risk of melanoma than women, the researchers found the opposite trend to be true among the young adults. “We knew we would see an increase in rates among young women, but we were surprised we saw such a dramatic increase. This seems to be higher than what has been reported previously,” said Mayo Clinic dermatologist Dr. Jerry Brewer in a teleconference.

In 2009 the International Agency of Research on Cancer declared tanning beds a human carcinogen, moving them into the top cancer-risk category alongside cigarettes. According to Brewer, tanning beds and cigarettes have the same cancer risk, but teens are ignoring the warnings. He said there is a disconnect in education about the dangers of tanning-bed use that needs to be acknowledged.

“Tanning beds can give you seven times the dose of UV radiation as the sun,” said Brewer, “but young adults are still going.”

It’s important to note that although melanoma rates are on the rise, mortality rates have improved. Researchers credit this to improved early-detection methods and prompt medical procedures.

“People are now more aware of their skin and of the need to see a doctor when they see changes. As a result, many cases can be caught before the cancer advances to a deep melanoma, which is harder to treat,” said Brewer.

But if people know what to look for, they can prevent melanoma. It takes only about three minutes to do a skin exam.

“Simply look at your skin,” said Brewer. “This includes getting mirrors and looking at your back and other hard-to-see areas. It takes a bit of education to get young people to start performing this initial first step, but once they do, the simple act of looking over your skin can significantly decrease chances of dying from skin cancer.”

Brewer also recommended educating yourself on the ABCDE’s of melanoma:

A — asymmetry: one side of a mole or dark spot looks different from the other side

B — border: instead of being circular or oval, the mole has a jagged edge

C — color: the mole has more than one color, a dark area, a light area or the colors red, white or blue within it

D — diameter: the mole is larger than 6 mm across, roughly the size of a pencil eraser

E — evolution: any other changes are noted in the mole, even if the change can’t be categorized by A, B, C or D, above. Any itching or bleeding in a mole is also important

Looking to fulfill your Nursing CE Requirements?  Check out our New Nursing Course on Skin Cancer:

Skin Cancer
1st Edition

Suzanne M. Mahon (Course Author) -  RN, DNSc, AOCN, APNG;



Regular Price: $17.95
Item No. N1370
Contents & Page Count: 38

Skin cancer continues to be a growing public health concern. This continuing education course provides an overview of the prevalence and management of the different types of skin cancer. It guides the nurse through modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors, how to perform a risk assessment, physical characteristics and detection strategies, AJCC staging, new treatment modalities and Healthy People 2020 public health initiatives. Inclusion of the latest SPF sunscreen recommendations and skin cancer prevention strategies to share with patients and familes make this a must-have course!

Course Objectives:

  • Identify the main risk factors for developing skin cancer.
  • Distinguish between non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancers.
  • Describe at least three means to prevent skin cancer.
  • Identify prognostic indicators used in the diagnosis of skin cancer.
  • Describe treatment modalities for the various types of skin cancer.

* This course is an extraction of, and should not be taken in conjunction with, Cancer in Women, 2nd Edition.


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Western Schools is a well recognized, nationally accredited provider of continuing education. Since 1978, we have provided high quality CE courses to more than 1 million health care professionals. We have an extensive selection of current courses designed especially for * nurses (RNs, LPNs/LVNs, and APNs) * social workers * counselors (mental health & substance use) * marriage and family therapists * psychologists * psychiatric technicians * nursing home administrators All Western Schools courses have clearly defined educational goals and adhere to stringent requirements for curriculum planning and presentation. At Western Schools we are committed to your professional growth and lifelong learning.
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