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ASCO 2015: Melanoma Rates Dramatically Increasing in Children and Young Adults

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Key Points

  • The incidence of melanoma in children, adolescents, and young adults increased by 253% from 1973 to 2011.
  • The survival rates for melanoma in this age group have also have increased—from 80% for the period from 1973 to 1980 to 95% in 2011.
  • A total of 98% of the melanoma cases were diagnosed among adolescents and young adults (aged 15–39 years), with the median age being 32.

The incidence of melanoma has increased by more than 250% among children, adolescents, and young adults since 1973, according to research to be presented by Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) on June 1 at the 2015 ASCO Annual Meeting (Abstract 9058) in Chicago. The research has been recognized with an ASCO Merit Award.

“Given the epidemic rise of melanoma cases diagnosed among children, adolescents, and young adults, it is imperative that new research initiatives are implemented, genetic and environmental risk factors identified, and effective prevention and screening strategies employed,” said Demytra Mitsis, MD, lead author of the study and a Fellow in the Department of Medical Oncology at Roswell Park.

Study Findings

Analyzing Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program (SEER) data, Roswell Park scientists determined that the number of cases of melanoma diagnosed in children, adolescents, and young adults increased by 253% from 1973 to 2011. However, survival rates also have increased—from 80% for the period 1973 to 1980 to 95% in 2011. Female young adults appear to be at particular risk for melanoma, a trend that may be due to known risk factors such as the prevalence of tanning.

The SEER data analysis included 35,726 cases of melanoma identified among individuals younger than 40 years of age from 1973 to 2011. Dr. Mitsis and colleagues found that 98% of the melanoma cases were diagnosed among adolescents and young adults (aged 15–39 years), with a median age of 32 years. Females comprised 57% of reported cases from 1973 to 1980 and 65% of reported cases from 2001 to 2011. The evaluation revealed that the proportion of noninvasive, early-stage melanoma cases increased from 4% of cases for the period 1973 to 1980 to more than 20% of all melanoma cases in 2011.

“The reality is that melanoma is the third most common cancer in those 15 to 39 years old, and these numbers have been steadily increasing. This is a national problem that needs to be addressed, and it begins with awareness and effective prevention strategies,” added senior author Nikhil Khushalani, MD, Section Chief for Soft Tissue and Melanoma at Roswell Park.

For full disclosures of the study authors, view the study abstract at abstract.asco.org.

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.


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