Purpose: To evaluate risk factors for the development of and factors influencing survival in pediatric melanoma.
Patients and methods: We evaluated 1,255 children (age < 20 years) and 2,673 young adults (age 20 to 24 years) with melanoma in the 2001 National Cancer Institute (NCI) Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) database. We estimated exposure to UV radiation based on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) measurements.
Results: The incidence of pediatric melanoma increased 46% (95% CI, 40 to 52) per year of age and 2.9% (95% CI, 2.1 to 3.6) per year from 1973 to 2001. Incidence rates were lower in black patients (-95%; 95% CI, -98 to -90) compared with white patients and in male patients (-39%; 95% CI -46 to -31) compared with females. Increased ambient UV radiation was associated with elevated risk (19% per kJ; 95% CI, 9 to 30). Children with melanoma had a 5-year melanoma-specific survival of 93.6% (95% CI, 91.9 to 94.9), which improved from 1973 to 2001. The hazard ratio of death from melanoma increased with male sex; older age; advanced disease; location of the primary other than extremities or torso; earlier year of diagnosis; and previous cancer.
Conclusion: The incidence of melanoma in the United States is increasing rapidly in children. Risk factors for pediatric melanoma include being white, being female, increasing age, and environmental UV radiation. Survival is decreased for children and adolescents with unfavorable prognostic factors (male sex, unfavorable site, and/or second primary or regional or distant metastasis). More effective therapeutic strategies are needed for these groups.