Discussions of skin cancer (and cancer more broadly) often revolve around individuals who are 60+ years of age. Indeed, 65 is the average age of individuals diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer, according to The American Cancer Society. However, while melanoma is more commonly found in older individuals, younger individuals are still at risk of developing this and other types of skin cancer. That said, can one be too young for melanoma? To answer this broad question, let’s explore the ways in which age is related to one’s risk of developing skin cancer.
While individuals receive melanoma diagnoses at various points in their lives, the overall risk of developing skin cancer goes up over time. The reason for this correlation is fairly straightforward -- the older you get, the more ultraviolet (UV) radiation hits your skin in total. This accumulation of sun damage puts your skin cells at greater risk of mutating (i.e. becoming cancerous). That said, there are also cases of skin cancer in children who have not endured several decades of sun exposure. Rather, this form of melanoma (pediatric melanoma) seems to occur due to genetic reasons. While the number of children who experience melanoma each year is relatively low, the cancer itself can spread faster in kids than it does in adults, making it even more threatening to affected children.
As mentioned above, the sun’s UV rays are the primary cause of skin cancer, which makes older individuals more susceptible to melanoma. That said, age isn’t the only factor to consider when assessing one’s level of risk for developing skin cancer. Regardles of age, those with fair skin, freckles, and blonde/red hair, for instance, are inherently more susceptible to the sun’s negative effects than those with darker skin and hair. Additionally, while the rates of melanoma are higher in men overall, they are higher in women than in men before the age of 50. Lifestyle choices may have something to do with this disparity, as younger women may spend more time in the sun and tan their skin in tanning beds more than young men on average. Simply put, certain genetic factors and activities put one at greater risk of developing melanoma, age aside.
Unfortunately, young adult melanoma rates have been on the rise in recent decades, especially among women. Experts think that the increased popularity of tanning (whether outdoors or in booths) is in no small part to blame for this increase. It’s important for people of all ages to know about the risks and signs of skin cancer so they can catch melanoma and non-melanoma cancers at their earliest stages. The sooner a diagnosis is made, the easier the cancer is to treat and ultimately cure.
While it’s not common to find melanoma in children, it’s also not impossible. And even if you don’t develop skin cancer at a young age, choices you make as a child, teen, and young adult can greatly increase your chances of developing it later in life. In other words, you should remain vigilant regarding skin cancer at every stage of your life, making sure your skin is well protected from UV rays and receiving regular screenings from your dermatologist. The good news is that treatment for melanoma skin cancer is often highly effective and that the cure rate is relatively high when the cancer is caught early on.
The experts at Premier Dermatology Partners are happy to provide you with information regarding all types of skin cancer so you can take the best care of your skin and overall health. To learn more about our providers and all the services we offer, contact us today.