It appears that wealthier White women may be at a higher risk of melanoma than less affluent women. These findings were recently published in the Archives of Dermatology.

Melanoma is the most deadly type of skin cancer. Each year in the United States, there are roughly 68,000 new diagnoses of melanoma and 8,700 deaths from the disease. Melanoma incidence has increased strikingly among young women—during the past three decades rates of the disease have more than doubled among this population.

Wealthier women and girls appear to be at greater risk, possibly due to the large amount of leisure time spent outdoors and frequent use of tanning beds among this group.

To investigate the relationship between socioeconomic status and melanoma incidence among girls and young women, researchers evaluated 3,800 non-Hispanic White girls and women aged 15 to 39 years who had been diagnosed with melanoma. The level of UV exposure in the areas where participants lived was also assessed.

Melanoma incidence appeared to increase most among the highest socioeconomic levels. Though there was an increase across all income levels, the rise was only statistically significant at the top three levels. Levels of UV exposure were also factors: rates of melanoma were 80% higher among women and girls from top socioeconomic categories who lived in neighborhoods with the highest UV exposure than among those from lower socioeconomic and lower UV-exposure categories.

By identifying the increased risk for melanoma among more affluent women and girls who live in areas with high levels of UV exposure, health experts may be able to target this population with educational efforts about the risk of melanoma and how to prevent it.

Reference: Hausauer AK, Susan M. Swetter SM, Cockburn MG, et al. Increases in melanoma among adolescent girls and young women in California: trends by socioeconomic status and UV radiation exposure. Archives of Dermatology [early online publication]. March 21, 2011.

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