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24-03-2011 | Article

Melanoma risk in young women linked to social class


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MedWire News: The risk for skin cancer in young women appears to be greater for those of higher social class, US study findings suggest.

The research, published in the Archives of Dermatology, suggests that this increased risk could be due to these women spending more leisure time outdoors, vacationing in sunny climates, and using sunbeds.

Christina Clarke, from the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, and colleagues assessed the socioeconomic status of 3800 White women aged 15 to 39 years in whom 3842 melanomas were diagnosed from 1988 to 1992 and from 1998 to 2002.

They found that women living in high socioeconomic areas were nearly six times more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma than those living in poorer areas. Indeed, the risk for melanoma increased in line with increasing socioeconomic status.

The rates of melanoma among adolescent women have more than doubled in the USA during the past 3 decades.

And Clarke and team suggest that their findings of a higher risk among those from more affluent areas may reflect the fact that these women "have reported to have more leisure time, during which they may pursue outdoor activities such as gardening, playing sports."

Also, "they may travel more frequently to high-altitude or low-altitude vacation destinations in which ultraviolet radiation exposure is greater or they may actively participate in natural and/or artificial tanning practices," they add.

Dr Claire Knight, health information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: "This research highlights a pattern also seen in the UK - skin cancer rates are increasing and are higher in people from more affluent backgrounds.

"We all need some sun to make enough vitamin D which keeps our bones healthy, but overexposure to UV rays from the sun is the main cause of skin cancer. The best way to reduce the risk of skin cancer is to avoid sunburn by using clothing, shade and at least SP15 sunscreen."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Lucy Piper