Melanoma in adolescents and young adults (ages 15-39 years): United States, 1999-2006

J Am Acad Dermatol. 2011 Nov;65(5 Suppl 1):S38-49. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2011.04.038.


Background: Invasive melanoma of the skin is the third most common cancer diagnosed among adolescents and young adults (aged 15-39 years) in the United States. Understanding the burden of melanoma in this age group is important to identifying areas for etiologic research and in developing effective prevention approaches aimed at reducing melanoma risk.

Methods: Melanoma incidence data reported from 38 National Program of Cancer Registries and/or Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results statewide cancer registries covering nearly 67.2% of the US population were used to estimate age-adjusted incidence rates for persons 15-39 years of age. Incidence rate ratios were calculated to compare rates between demographic groups.

Results: Melanoma incidence was higher among females (age-adjusted incidence rates = 9.74; 95% confidence interval 9.62-9.86) compared with males (age-adjusted incidence rates = 5.77; 95% confidence interval 5.68-5.86), increased with age, and was higher in non-Hispanic white compared with Hispanic white and black, American Indians/Alaskan Natives, and Asian and Pacific Islanders populations. Melanoma incidence rates increased with year of diagnosis in females but not males. The majority of melanomas were diagnosed on the trunk in all racial and ethnic groups among males but only in non-Hispanic whites among females. Most melanomas were diagnosed at localized stage, and among those melanomas with known histology, the majority were superficial spreading.

Limitations: Accuracy of melanoma cases reporting was limited because of some incompleteness (delayed reporting) or nonspecific reporting including large proportion of unspecified histology.

Conclusions: Differences in incidence rates by anatomic site, histology, and stage among adolescents and young adults by race, ethnicity, and sex suggest that both host characteristics and behaviors influence risk. These data suggest areas for etiologic research around gene-environment interactions and the need for targeted cancer control activities specific to adolescents and young adult populations.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Ethnic Groups
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Melanoma / epidemiology*
  • Melanoma / etiology
  • Melanoma / mortality
  • Melanoma / prevention & control
  • Registries
  • Risk Factors
  • SEER Program
  • Skin Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Skin Neoplasms / etiology
  • Skin Neoplasms / mortality
  • Skin Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult