The incidence of melanoma has increased dramatically among people younger than 40, and young women in their 20s and 30s are the hardest hit, Mayo Clinic researchers report in the April issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Dermatologist Jerry Brewer, MD, and colleagues culled data from the Rochester Epidemiology Project for first-time diagnoses of melanoma in patients who were aged 18 to 39 from 1970 to 2009. They found that melanoma rates increased eightfold among young women and fourfold among young men.

Exactly why rates are on the rise is not 100% clear, but the researchers speculate that the use of indoor tanning beds is likely a key culprit. "A recent study reported that people who use indoor tanning beds frequently are 74% more likely to develop melanoma, and we know young women are more likely to use them than young men," Brewer says in a press release. "The results of this study emphasize the importance of active interventions to decrease risk factors for skin cancer and, in particular, to continue to alert young women that indoor tanning has carcinogenic effects that increase the risk of melanoma."

Source: Mayo Clinic Proceedings