The Mayo Clinic recently announced results of a study that shows an alarming rise in skin cancer rates among young women. Melanoma in particular, one of the most dangerous types of skin cancer, is eight times higher than it was 40 years ago.

Instead of national cancer databases, the researchers looked at a “well-defined population” of Olmsted County, Minnesota. According to dermatologist Dr. Kurtis Reed, this method improved accuracy.

“Those large databases are known to have some under-reporting bias,” he reportedly said, “and so the true incidence is hard to estimate from those databases.”

During a 40-year period, 256 melanoma cases were found among Olmsted County residents age 18-39. The overall rate was 16.9 skin cancer cases per 100,000 people. Young adult women showed a surprisingly high rate of 23.2 per 100,000, while men showed 10.8.

Why are skin cancer rates rising?

The burning question for researchers is?.. why are rates of skin cancer rising? Most assume that there must be a change in the behavior of people that has led to this dramatic rise.

If young women are known to have a higher rate of melanoma, one would assume that a difference in behavior exists between genders. But the study revealed nothing about subject behavior, so a conclusive link cannot be made between skin cancer and any behavior, including tanning.

Screening for Skin Cancer

The traditional advice for skin cancer screening is to see your dermatologist if you suspect that a mole you have is changing, growing or bleeding.

If you believe that you are at a high risk for skin cancer, ask your primary care physician if you should be screened for skin cancer, and if you should be screened on a regular basis.