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Incidence Rates of Melanoma in California Females


Incidence rates of melanoma among non-Hispanic white girls and young women have more than doubled in the past three decades.  A California study of 3800 of these females, ages 15 to 39 years, was performed in order to better implement education and prevention efforts.  


Findings concluded that public health interventions should target those women living in high socio-economic status and high ultra-violet ray (UV-R) areas where melanoma rates were 80% higher than neighborhoods in low socio-economic status and UV-R areas.


A Look at Potential Synergistic Melanoma Causes

  • UV radiation 
    • Includes artificial exposure (tanning beds) and natural exposure (sunburn or extended sun exposure)
  • Genetic Susceptibility
  • Socio-economic status (SES)
    • Lower SES areas may have limited access to skin screening 
    • Higher SES areas may have more time for leisure time due to affluence in the area, as well as social norms affecting sunbathing attitudes and practices.


The Skinny on the Study

The study calculated 3842 cases of malignant melanoma patients, non-Hispanic white girls and women reported to the California Cancer Registry (CCR) between 1988-1992 and 1998-2002. California has some of the highest levels of UV-R exposure in the US with an intermediate level of tanning-salon density.  The state’s income distribution and range of UV-R exposures shows a general representation as the US as a whole, therefore allowing results to generalize UV-R and socio-economic status relation to melanoma in these women throughout a broader segment of US population.  


Thick and thin tumors increased between the two time periods and the cases in each socie-economic status area did not change over time. Women in the highest socio-economic status category were almost 6 times as likely to be diagnosed with melanoma in comparison to women in the lowest socio-economic status category and this stayed consistent throughout the years. 


What can be done?

The study reports: “Interventions should target adolescent girls and young women living in high [socio-economic status] and high UV-R neighborhoods because they have experienced a significantly greater increase in disease burden.”
It is recommended that education and prevention efforts should be implemented, focusing on white adolescent girls and young women living in high-socio-economic status and UV-R areas.  The following suggestions are needed:

  1. Campaigns promoting UV-protective clothing while in sunlight, encouraging early morning and late afternoon sun-exposure 
  2. Creating shade in areas of high sun-exposure by planting more trees and building structures at bus stops, beaches or outdoor malls
  3. Campaigns explaining the need of high-SPF sunscreen with both water-resistant and broad-spectrum qualities
  4. Health education to limit the desirable attributes of tanning and passing legislature banning those 18 and under from using tanning beds.
  5. Provide information on assessing clinical warning signs of melanoma and provide free skin screenings



[image courtesy of Orange County Archives]

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