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Melanoma on rise in young women: Why?

Spray tans are pretty safe, but women continue to use tanning beds. And there's clear evidence linking indoor tanning to skin cancer, including melanoma, the deadliest kind. Use of tanning beds before age 30 increases the risk for melanoma by a whopping 75 percent. Some tanning salons insist that indoor tanning is safer than outdoor tanning. Don't believe it. Evidence suggests that tanning beds emit UV radiation at levels far exceeding those in sunlight. istockphoto

(CBS News) Melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, is on the rise - especially among young women, a new study shows.

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The study, published in the April 2012 edition of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, looked at the incidence of melanoma in patients ages 18 to 39 years, who had been diagnosed with the cancer between 1970 and 2009.

Melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in men, and the seventh most common cancer in women. And, according to study authors, the lifetime risk of melanoma is 1.5 times higher in men than in women.

But the study found that between 1970 and 2009, the incidence of melanoma increased 8-fold among young women - compared with 4-fold among young men.

"We anticipated we'd find rising rates, as other studies are suggesting, but we found an even higher incidence than the National Cancer Institute had reported...and in particular, a dramatic rise in women in their 20s and 30s," study author and Mayo Clinic dermatologist Dr. Jerry Brewer said in a news release.

Why the rise among young women in particular? Researchers think indoor tanning beds may be to blame.

"A recent study reported that people who use indoor tanning beds frequently are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma, and we know young women are more likely to use them than young men," Dr. Brewer said. And even young women who know about the dangers of tanning beds continue to use them, he said.

Other risks for melanoma include a family or personal history of melanoma, or unusual looking moles. "People who have had a melanoma are at higher risk for having another," Dr. Jennifer Stein, an assistant professor at the Ronald O. Perelman department of dermatology at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, told HealthDay. "It is important to check your own skin at home and come in to see a skin doctor if you ever see anything you are worried about it," she said.

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on melanoma.