Lots of Money May Produce Skin Cancer

Women of highest socioeconomic status have a greater melanoma risk

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Throughout the 1990s, melanoma began to affect more and more women. However, a new study shows that women from wealthier neighborhoods have a greater chance of developing the deadly skin cancer.

Researchers have found that a woman's socioeconomic status (her wealth and position in society) affects her risk of developing melanoma - the deadliest type of skin cancer. Simply put, there are more cases of melanoma among the well-to-do than among women from the poorest areas.

dailyRx Insight: Rich women are more likely to develop melanoma.

Through examining the relationship between melanoma, wealth, and exposure to UV radiation (the type of light that gives you sunburns and cancer), researchers from California found that being exposed to more UV radiation led to higher rates of melanoma only among the wealthiest teen girls and young women. Compared to girls and women from the poorest neighborhoods, those from the neighborhoods with the most money and the highest levels of UV radiation exposure had 80 percent higher rates of melanoma.

Looking at the results of this study, it is unclear why girls and women of higher socioeconomic status are exposed to more cancer-causing UV radiation, but it could be related to lots of trips to the tanning salon. More research is needed to find what causes the wealthiest white women to have a greater chance of developing this deadly cancer.

For this study, researchers looked at a total of 3,800 white girls and women between the ages of 15 and 39 years. Among these participants, more than 3,800 melanomas were diagnosed.

Each year an average of 53,000 new cases (4%) of melanoma are reported, with over 7,000 people (79%) dying from it. Melanoma in men is the sixth common cancer and seventh among women. Melanoma is the least common type of skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma is most common), it is the deadliest. Melanoma is caused by a cancer forming in a skin cell called a melanocyte, the type of skin cell that gives us skin pigmentation. Symptoms are primarily visual, with cause for concern being a new pigmented lesion, or “mole”, as well as changes in appearance to existing moles. Worrisome changes that can occur include lesions that are asymmetric (not circular or oval all the way around), an irregular border around the mole, dark color or changing color, and a large diameter. Late stage melanomas may bleed, itch or become ulcerated. Treatment is surgical excision, and chemotherapy (dacarbazine; DTIC®, DTIC-Dome®) or immunotherapy (Proleukin®) possible if it has metastasized. Metastasis is detected through CT scans, MRIs, PET and PET/CTs, ultrasound, LDH testing and photoacoustic detection.

The study - which was conducted by Amelia K. Hausauer, B.A.; Susan M. Swetter, M.D.; Myles G. Cockburn, Ph.D.; and Christina A. Clarke, Ph.D., M.P.H. - is published in the Archives of Dermatology.  

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 22, 2011
Last Updated:
March 22, 2011