Wealth, White Women, and Cancer

March 25, 2011

A new study published in the Archives of Dermatology finds the rate of melanoma for women between the ages of 15 and 39 is highest among those who earn the most.

The study was focused on non-Hispanic white women, a demographic that has seen a dramatic increase in the rate of melanoma. Using data from the California Cancer Registry, the U.S. Census and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the researchers looked at 3,800 women who had been diagnosed with 3,842 cases of malignant melanoma. The data was examined in two time periods, 1988 to 1992 and 1998 to 2002.

The Los Angeles Times reports the following findings:

  • Teens and women in the top 20% of socioeconomic status (SES) were six times more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma than their counterparts in the bottom 20%.
  • Among teens and women who lived in neighborhoods with the most UV radiation exposure, the rate of melanoma diagnosis was 73% higher for those in the top 20% of SES compared with those in the bottom 20%.
  • Among teens and women who lived in neighborhoods with a middling amount of UV exposure, the rate of melanoma diagnosis was nearly three times higher for those in the top 20% of SES compared with those in the bottom 20%.
  • For teens and women in the bottom 40% of SES, melanoma rates were essentially flat over the course of the study. For all other groups, the rate of diagnosis rose between the 1998-1992 period and the 1998-2002 period.

The researchers explain that it’s likely women with higher incomes participate in more activities that expose them to UV rays, including beach vacations, visiting tanning salons, or simply more outside leisure time.

The study is available here.

Tanning beds as harmful as smoking

July 31, 2009

New research from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has determined that tanning beds are even more dangerous than previously thought. The IARC has moved tanning beds from “probably carcinogenic to humans” to the highest cancer risk category, calling them “carcinogenic to humans”. They will join other Group 1 hazards including cigarettes, asbestos, and arsenic.

This past June, scientists from several different countries met to analyze 20 studies that linked tanning beds and skin cancer. After examining the data, the IARC has found tanning beds can increase the risk of developing skin cancer by 75%, especially if use begins before the age of 30. The IARC also discovered evidence that links tanning beds with melanoma of the eye.

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the amount of young women who have been diagnosed with melanoma – the most serious form of skin cancer. According to WebMD:

“[IARC’s Vincent] Cogliano said studies conducted over the past decade provide an ‘an abundance of evidence’ that tanning bed use has played a role in this rise, along with direct sun exposure.”

With the release of these results, the World Health Organization hopes to persuade governments to regulate the use of tanning beds, as well as restrict their use to those who are 18 and over.

The report is published in the August issue of Lancet Oncology.


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