MONDAY, March 21 (HealthDay News) -- Affluent young white women -- who presumably have more opportunities for tanning -- are nearly six times as likely to develop the lethal skin cancer melanoma as their poorest counterparts, a new study indicates.
In research examining the relationship between melanoma incidence, ultraviolet (UV) light exposure and socioeconomic status, scientists studied data from 3,800 white girls and women in California aged 15 to 39 during two periods a decade apart.
Among those women, 3,842 melanomas were diagnosed, with diagnoses increasing most significantly over time in the three highest socioeconomic levels. UV radiation exposure was linked to higher melanoma rates only among the women in the top two levels, the study found.
"I think we originally thought that UV-sunnier areas have more melanoma . . . but it was not as powerful a predictor as socioeconomic status, and really, you need the two together," said study co-author Christina A. Clarke, a research scientist at Cancer Prevention Institute of California.
"These are young girls -- 15 to 39 -- and they shouldn't be getting cancer," she added. "Melanoma is a particularly poignant cancer, too, because it's so deadly."
The study is published online March 21 and in the July print issue of Archives of Dermatology.
Each year, melanoma is diagnosed in about 70,000 people in the United States and about 8,700 die from it, according to the American Cancer Society.
Among teens, the rate of melanoma has increased almost 3 percent a year in the last two decades, the authors noted.
Using data from the California Cancer Registry, U.S. Census and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Clarke and her colleagues zeroed in on two periods -- January 1988 to December 1992 and January 1998 to December 2002.
The researchers ranked neighborhoods in California wi
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