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Skin Cancer Jumps Among Young Adults

Study finds a fourfold increase in the risk of melanoma for young men since 1970.

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Skin cancer rates among young people skyrocketed between 1970 and 2009, most likely due to an increased use of tanning beds. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic found that the risk of developing melanoma—the most dangerous type of skin cancer—is now four times higher for young men, and eight times higher for young women. The study, published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, looked at the medical records of 18- to 39-year-olds with a first-time diagnosis of skin cancer. Previous studies have linked tanning beds to skin cancer, including one that found that people who use them are 74% more likely to develop melanoma. In 2009, tanning beds were declared a human carcinogen by the International Agency of Research on Cancer. This puts them in the same cancer risk category as cigarettes. In spite of the risks, young adults continue to use tanning beds, which can give you seven times the ultraviolet radiation exposure as the sun. The researchers fault a lack of education about the dangers of the use of tanning beds. In spite of the increase in skin cancer rates among young adults, the overall rates of death from melanoma have improved. This results from a combination of better early detection and faster treatment. When left unnoticed for too long, melanoma becomes much more difficult to treat. You can take several steps to reduce your risk of developing skin cancers. Limit your exposure to the ultraviolet radiation by not using tanning beds, avoiding the sun in the middle of the day, and wearing protective clothing and sunscreen when you do go out. You should also examine yourself regularly for changes in your skin, and talk to your doctor about any concerns.

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