Melanoma on the rise among young people, especially women

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on April 27, 2012 at 6:47 PM

Updated Saturday, Apr 28 at 8:43 AM

PLANO - Christa Suddeth loves nothing more than sun tanning in the pool.

At least she did, until last summer.

"My mom noticed this huge black spot on my back," Suddeth said. "And it was just a mole that was getting really, just ugly."

The 30 year old was diagnosed with melanoma, the most dangerous and deadly form of skin cancer.

A recent Mayo Clinic study found melanoma in young adults has soared, with a six-fold increase in the past 40 years.

"Right now, it's become the number one cancer," said Dr. Paul Martinelli, a dermatologist with the Texas Skin Surgery Center in Plano. "Not just skin cancer, in young adults 25-to-29 years old. It's estimated about one-in-55 Americans will develop melanoma in their lifetime, and those numbers seem to keep growing every year."

Basal and squamous cell skin cancers are most commonly diagnosed. The American Cancer Society estimates that 76,250 cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in Americans in 2012. That number represents less than 5 percent of all skin cancer cases, but the vast majority of skin cancer deaths.

In Texas, the American Cancer Society estimates 4,020 new cases of melanoma this year.

Doctors blame UV rays from the sun, and tanning beds, for the rise.

Melanoma is 20 times more common in whites than in African Americans.

"Blonde hair and fair skin, that didn't bother me," Christa Suddeth said. "I was getting my suntan."

Suddeth's melanoma was removed surgically. Now, her skin and moles are checked regularly for suspicious changes.

And her days in the sun have ended.

"Now I sit in the shade or just don't even go outside," she said.

Dermatologists this weekend are holding free skin cancer screenings at four North Texas hospitals, and more information on those screenings can be found at the link on the upper right of this story.

Women, especially, are urged to show up.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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