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Melanoma an Increasing Burden in United States

Greater access to screening cannot fully explain the increasing rates of skin cancer

MONDAY, Jan. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Improved access to screening for malignant melanoma does not explain the increased incidence of the disease in the United States, according to a study published online Jan. 8 in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

Eleni Linos, M.D., of Stanford University Medical Center in Stanford, Calif., and colleagues analyzed population-based data from the Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results program comprising information on invasive melanoma diagnoses among non-Hispanic whites from almost 291 million person-years of observation.

There was an overall annual 3.1 percent increase in the incidence of melanoma from 1992 to 2004, the investigators found. When they looked at incidence of tumors of all thicknesses and histological subtypes, the researchers found statistically significant increases across the board, including those with thicknesses greater than 4 mm. There was a doubling of the incidence of melanoma within a decade, but no significant increase in melanoma mortality over the same period, the authors report.

"Some have argued that the rapid rises in melanoma incidence are indicative of a true epidemic on the basis of greater ultraviolet radiation-induced carcinogenesis, whereas others insist that the apparent trends are an artifact of improved surveillance, diagnostic scrutiny and regular screening," Linos and colleagues write. "Our findings inform this debate by showing persistent increases among more fatal, thick tumors and contest the argument that rising incidence rates are solely attributable to increased diagnosis of thinner tumors."

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