Findings of Significant Sex Differences in Skin Cancer
Women experience a dramatically higher rate of melanoma than men, particularly among those under age 50, according to a population-based study using records from the Rochester Epidemiology Project, published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings. These findings revealed significant sex-specific differences in incidence, onset and stages of skin cancer, and challenges the results of a 2009 report, but is consistent with a more recent study shared at SGWHC.
“The most striking finding was among women in that age group,” says Jerry D. Brewer, M.D., Associate Professor of Dermatology at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, and principal investigator of the study. “Women between 40 and 50 showed the highest rates of increase we’ve seen in any group so far.” The overall incidence of skin cancer increased nearly eightfold among middle-aged men and women. While the rising incidence of melanoma, which affects 75,000 Americans and an estimated 9,000 deaths annually is well known, little is known about the specific demographics of those most at risk, prompting the study.
The researchers found that among white, non-Hispanic adults in the 40 to 60 age group the incidence of skin cancer increased 24-fold among women and only 4.5-fold for men. In particular, women under 50 showed a marked increase in melanoma, a finding that suggests a need to consider a hormone connection to the disease. Even though women were more likely to develop melanoma, men were more likely to have deeper lesions. Another significant finding was that the overall chances of survival increased by 7 percent in each year of the study.
“The improved survival rates may be due to increased public awareness, more frequent screenings, and detection of skin cancer at earlier stages,” says Dr. Brewer. The steepest increase in melanoma occurred in the last decade covered by the study, which, the researchers postulate, may be connected to the heightened popularity of artificial tanning salons. Adolescent girls and young women are the greatest frequenters of tanning salon, as indicated in prior reports.