Melanoma is on the rise in children and teenagers.

It’s well known that melanoma is the most dreaded skin cancer diagnosis. Over the past decade, we’ve watched the incidence of melanoma increase, especially in young adults, and the increase has been attributed to tanning behaviors. Most notorious of course are tanning booths.

A new study conducted by dermatologist Dr. Amy Forman Taub, published in the early release May 2013 Pediatrics, has documented a rise in the incidence of melanoma in children. Although melanoma in children is rare (it accounts for 3% of pediatric cancers), its incidence has increased 2% per year from 1973 to 2009 among children from newborns to those who are age 19. According to the study, 1,317 children were diagnosed with melanoma during the study time frame. Of these, 1,230 children were white. Because the number of melanoma cases among other racial and ethnic groups was so small, the researchers focused the analysis on the white children. The biggest jump in melanoma rates was seen among adolescents aged 15 to 19, especially girls.

The researchers did not have any information on tanning habits or sun exposure history. Boys were more likely to develop melanomas on their face and trunks, while girls were more likely to have melanoma on their lower legs and hips. Although the researchers concluded that genes may play a role in the increasing incidence of melanoma, they believed that sun exposure and tanning habits were more likely culprits, particularly among the teenagers in the study. The study is interesting in that it makes us aware of yet another skin cancer screening opportunity—children and teenagers.

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