Melanoma: It’s an Epidemic

Melanoma incidence and mortality skyrocketing in older adults

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer. And melanoma is the gravest form of skin cancer. Investigators recently reviewed trends relating to the incidence and outcomes of melanoma.

Melanoma continues to rise at alarming rates, particularly among older adults, according to a new study.

The incline is so steep that the authors of this study called for a national effort to encourage prevention and early detection of this potentially fatal disease.

"Check your skin regularly to look for changes in moles."

Alan C. Geller, MPH, RN, deputy director of Public Health Practice at the Harvard School Of Public Health, was the lead investigator of this study.

Geller’s team combed through data from the Connecticut Tumor Registry to analyze trends of melanoma over the previous six decades.

These investigators looked at the incidence and mortality (death rates) of melanoma between 1950 and 2007. 

Here’s what the data uncovered:

  • In the early 1950s, being diagnosed with invasive melanoma was rare — 1.9 cases among 100,000 men and 2.6 patient cases per 100,000 for women.
  • Over the entire study period — 1950 to 2007 — incidence among men skyrocketed 17-fold and among women nine-fold, going from 1.9 to 33.5 cases per 100,000 men and from 2.6 to 25.3 cases per 100,000 women.
  • Rates soared 45-fold for men over the age of 50 and 45-fold for men between the ages of 65 and 69 in the last six decades.
  • Median age at the time of diagnosis increased from 53 in men and 52 in women to 65 in men and 58 in women in 2007.
  • Incidence rates rose sharply for young women aged 20-29 between 1993 and 1997 and 2003 to 2007.
  • Mortality rates tripled for men and doubled for women during the study period.
  • Melanoma deaths were more common in men (58 percent) than in women (42 percent) during the years studied.

“Unremitting increases in incidence and mortality of melanoma call for a nationally coordinated effort to encourage and promote innovative prevention and early-detection efforts,” the authors wrote.

This year, melanoma will be diagnosed in an estimated 76,690 adults (45,060 men and 31,630 women) and will cause 9,480 deaths (6,280 men and 3,200 women) in the US.

This study was published September 16 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The Connecticut Tumor Registry is supported by the National Cancer Institute and State of Connecticut Department of Public Health.

One of the authors receives research funding from MelaSciences and serves as a paid expert witness.

Review Date: 
September 16, 2013
Last Updated:
September 16, 2013