Affluent people face higher risk of melanoma

According to scientists at the Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC), affluent people are at a much higher risk of melanoma than the rest of the population of whites in California.

This information is based on findings from a CPIC-led study, published in the November issue of Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, that found socioeconomic status (SES) to be an even more important predictor of melanoma than ultraviolet radiation (UVR).  

Higher UVR was associated with higher rates of malignant melanoma only among people living in the top 40% of California neighborhoods, ranked by SES.  The highest rates of melanoma observed were among males living in neighborhoods of the highest 20% of SES.

CPIC scientists studied five years of melanoma incidence data and linked those data to data on SES and UVR throughout the state.  Their findings suggest that there may be certain modifiable behaviors – such as using tanning beds and taking vacations to sunny areas – more strongly linked to SES than to UVR exposure that put people at higher risk of developing the potentially fatal disease.

"Melanoma is the fastest growing component of the cancer burden in California," said CPIC Research Scientist and study lead author Christina Clarke, Ph.D.  "Our work helps target some of the neighborhoods—those in sunny and affluent areas—for whom risk appears to be higher and who thereby might benefit from educational campaigns around melanoma prevention and detection.  

"Education is a major tool in reducing death due to melanoma in two ways," said Dr. Clarke.  "First, we have work to do to get the message out about the dangers of sunburns and extreme tanning. Second, we have to show people what melanomas look like so they can be aware.  The difference between taking off a thin melanoma and full recovery and being killed by a fast growing melanoma is only six months, so the more people know about the "ABCDE" criteria distinguishing a dangerous mole from a normal one, the more melanoma survivors we will have."


Cancer Prevention Institute of California


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