The incidence of invasive cutaneous melanoma among Caucasian men and women aged 15 to 39 has jumped quite a bit since 1973, and has more than doubled among younger women, according to a letter published online last week in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.
The recent increase in incidence among young women parallels reported trends in exposure to UVR, the primary environmental cause of melanoma. The prevalence of sunburn is increasing among US adult men and women overall, although trends by age group have not been reported. Among adolescents aged 16–18 years, both the prevalence of sunburn and the average number of days spent at the beach increased between sun surveys conducted in 1998 and 2004. Tanning bed usage, which has been recently evaluated as a probable cause of melanoma, is increasing among US adults and is most prevalent among young women.
The trend is disturbing, although the study's authors go out of their way to add disclaimers about the data they used (e.g., "It is important to consider whether these trends may reflect changes in data quality, diagnosis, or surveillance. There is evidence of increased underreporting of melanoma over time.." they state).