Why melanoma skin cancer is increasing and what we can do

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The incidence of melanoma has increased

Information from AIM shows that the incidence of melanoma has increased by 15 times in the last 40 years in the US and a similar increase has been seen in the UK. Lighter skinned populations are more likely to develop melanoma as darker-skinned people generally have more UV-protective melanin in their skin.

This helps explain why the incidence of malignant melanoma in Caucasian populations generally increases with decreasing latitude. With the highest recorded incidence occurring in Australia, where, according to info from AIM, the annual rates of melanoma are 10 and 20 times the rates in Europe for women and men respectively.

On the whole, there are many reasons for this increase in melanoma globally. Discover the main drivers below.

Melanoma: When to see a doctor

Better detection of melanoma

Some of the upswings in melanoma rates can be attributed to greater public awareness and better detection of the disease, but it can’t account for all of the increase of melanoma we are seeing.

According to a study published in 2009 in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, increases in melanomas occurred for tumors of all thicknesses, and the incidence doubled in all socioeconomic groups over a 10-year period studied.

This points to the fact that, even in populations with limited access to quality healthcare, higher rates were still reported. This means that at least some of the rise is due to a real increase in incidence.

Tanning beds are a no-go

Another reason for the rising melanoma rates is an increase in tanning bed usage over the years. Tanning beds became widely popular in the 1980s and grew to a large, global industry throughout the 1990s. While there is some evidence that shows tanning bed usage is now starting to decline, they have still made their impact.

An article in Live Science cited statistics showing that during the same time tanning beds became popular, melanoma rates increased by 2 percent in the general population, but amongst young women, who make up 71 percent of tanning salon customers, incidents of melanoma increased by 2.2 percent.

A study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in 2001, noted this gender difference as well, with females showing a greater increase in thin lesions than men.

Another analysis of nine SEER registry databases (1975-2006) also showed that age-specific melanoma incidence rates were greater among women than men prior to age 40.

An aging population contributes

Another driving factor for the increase in melanoma incidence is simply an aging population as cancer risk increases with age. According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, most skin cancer patients are over the age of 65. Over time, our bodies’ ability to fight cancer mutations decreases.

The exact reason isn’t clear but many researchers think it has to do with our aging tissue. This makes the chance of developing cancer more likely. As life expectancies increase around the world, so will incidences of cancer as a result.

Depleting ozone through climate change

As climate change continues to pose a greater risk to our world, we may all become more susceptible to skin cancer. The World Health Organization estimates that a 10 per cent decrease in ozone levels will result in an additional 300,000 non-melanoma and 4,500 melanoma skin cancer cases.

The ozone layer protects us from the sun’s harmful UV radiation and makes life on earth possible for humans. The release of ozone-depleting substances into our atmosphere is breaking down this layer and increasing the strength of UV radiation. This can be seen in Australia especially as it is close to the Antarctic ozone hole, and, as a result, experiences higher rates of UV radiation.

This is thought to be one of the reasons why skin cancer rates are higher in this area of the world.

Empower yourself to prevent melanoma

One piece of good news is that with increased awareness of skin cancer and prevention methods, melanoma can be caught in the early stages, greatly increasing the chances of survival. Learn the symptoms of melanoma to catch cancer before it has a chance to spread and become deadly.

Self-check on a regular basis, and take the early detection into your own hands.

Learn the health of your skin
Why melanoma skin cancer is increasing and what we can do 1
Check your skin for skin cancer today.

SkinVision Customer Stories

"I think it probably saved my life"
Seonaid Sichel
United Kingdom
"SkinVision gave me the confidence to go and ask the doctor"
William Webber
United Kingdom
"The melanoma could have been on my arm for years"
Andrew Bartlett
United Kingdom
"I’m now under strict watch"
Barry Joblin
New Zealand
"I think it probably saved my life"
Seonaid Sichel
United Kingdom
"SkinVision gave me the confidence to go and ask the doctor"
William Webber
United Kingdom
"The melanoma could have been on my arm for years"
Andrew Bartlett
United Kingdom
"I’m now under strict watch"
Barry Joblin
New Zealand

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