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Melanoma cases among young U.S. declined by nearly a quarter in 10 years: information campaigns work

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Public health campaigns encouraging people to protect themselves from the sun in the United States seem to be paying off, although for now they are only visible in the younger population. In fact, a new analysis found that the incidence of invasive melanoma in the United States has decreased in adolescents and young adults over the past decade, although it has increased in older age groups.
To be fair, the study’s senior author, dermatologist Jennifer Gardner of the University of Washington, Seattle, cautiously told Medscape Medical News that “we don’t know why this trend in melanoma reduction is occurring.”
However, it is a fact that in the U.S. there have been, over the years, campaigns and numerous expert messages relaunched by the media aimed at promoting sun protection starting in childhood and slowly there has been a widespread awareness of the dangers of excessive exposure to ultraviolet rays, which has certainly affected the habits of Americans.
The U.S. data are in line with what we have already seen in Australia, where a reduction in the incidence of melanoma cases has been documented since the 1980s, and again there have been numerous information campaigns.
Jennifer Gardner’s team analyzed data on 988,103 cases of invasive melanoma that had been recorded in two large databases, covering the first 15 years of this century. In particular, it was seen that between 2006 and 2015 the incidence of melanoma decreased significantly, by almost a quarter, among adolescents (aged 10 to 19 years) and young adults (aged 20 to 29 years). In contrast, skin cancers have increased significantly in adults aged 40 years and older: by an average of 1.8 percent per year in both men and women, with particularly pronounced increases in older age groups.
“We know that early childhood sunburn and excessive ultraviolet exposure early in life are a risk factor for the development of melanoma later in life. It is therefore possible,” Gardner explained, “that public health interventions may not have affected the incidence of melanoma in people over the age of 40 because they have been affected by prior exposure. It may be that older people have adopted UV protection behaviors later in life and we have not yet seen the impact of this change. However, to minimize the risk of developing skin cancers, we still strongly advocate that protection should be adopted throughout life.”
Source: Paulson KG, Gupta D et al. Age-Specific Incidence of Melanoma in the United States. JAMA Dermatol. 2019 Nov 13.

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