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Skin Cancer Rate Triples for Women under 40
The Journal of the American Medical Association published research concluding that the rates of basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer in women under 40 living in a Minnesota county rose to 32 per 100,000 women in 2003, from 13 per 100,000 in the late 1970s. The JAMA article warns, "This increase may lead to an exponential increase in the overall occurrence of nonmelanoma skin cancers overtime as this population ages, which emphasizes the need to focus on skin cancer prevention in young adults."

According to the article, the Minnesota increase in these cancers is consistent with national trends, which also show an increase in basal cell and squamous cell cancers. The Minnesota research is particularly disturbing because these nonmelanoma skin cancers in the past usually occurred in persons over 50. There is some reason why younger persons, especially young women, are getting them now.

One of the usual suspects is tanning. The JAMA article authors cite past research that associated use of a tanning bed with nonmelanoma skin cancer in young women. However, the authors could not reach any conclusion about tanning and skin cancer in their study because they did not have access to the necessary information.

They do note that nonmelanoma skin cancer is the most common form of cancer worldwide, and that it is increasing. Their article states, "This increasing incidence is most likely due to a combination of multiple factors, including increase exposure to UV light, ozone depletion, and increased surveillance." There may also be a genetic component.

Winston does not know what is causing this apparent dramatic incidence of skin cancer. But he does know that if there were a chemical implicated, then the NGOs and regulators would be in a fury of activity to attack the cause of the problem. He hasn't heard much from them about the sun and tanning beds.

  • Click for JAMA article.

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