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A recent study conducted under Amelia k. Hausauer, of the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, along with her colleagues, has found that the incidence of melanoma is higher in rich white women.

Incidence of melanoma found to be higher in rich white women

The conclusion was drawn after studying the relationship that UV rays had on women of higher socio- economic status. The incidence of melanoma in rich white women was found to be almost six times that of those found in women belonging to other socio- economic groups. It was all the more prominent in ladies of non Hispanic races between the ages of 15 to 39 years, where the rate was almost double.

The findings of this study may be attributed to the fact that having a rich bronze tan has almost become a fashion statement in the affluent society. Women in this group go all out to get a fabulous tan, either by exposing themselves to more sun or by artificial means like tanning beds. They are also more likely to go out for vacations where they spend a considerable time in the sun. The end result is that they end up getting exposed to far more UV rays than what is normal.  The harmful UVA rays penetrate the deeper layers of skin and stimulate melanocytes, the cells responsible for producing the pigment melanin. It is the melanin content in the skin which produces the brown tan.

Melanoma is a serious form of skin cancer

Melanoma is a serious form of skin cancer that starts from the melanocytes. It usually originates in the skin as a mole but can develop wherever the pigment cells are present, e.g. eyes and intestines. Every year around 68,000 new melanoma cases are detected in the US of which about 8,700 patients die because of their cancer.

A melanoma can be easily recognized by the following characteristics:

  • “A” stands for asymmetry, i.e. the mole is asymmetrical in appearance
  • “B” is for the border of the mole which is irregular with ragged edges
  • “C” stands for the color of the mole which comprises of uneven distribution of black, tan and brown color
  • “D” is for the diameter of the mole which keeps changing
  • “E” is to show that the mole is constantly evolving, i.e. it does not remain static in its shape and size

The melanoma usually grows deeper and if not detected early, it soon invades the healthy tissues like the blood vessels and the nerves and may become deadly.

While other forms of cancer are showing a decline over a period of time, the incidence of melanoma is increasing at a rapid rate. The most important risk factor for the development of melanoma is exposure to the harmful UV rays of the sun. While UVB rays cause a skin burn and weaken the skin, UVA rays penetrate the epidermis and stimulate the melanocytes to produce more melanin. The only means of protecting yourself from these UV rays is by using an effective sun block of SPF 30 or more, wear protective clothing and to get minimal sun exposure. It is good to remember that no tanning is safe, whether natural or Procured by artificial means.

  • Amelia K. Hausauer, BA
  • Susan M. Swetter, MD
  • Myles G. Cockburn, PhD
  • Christina A. Clarke, PhD, MPH. Increases in Melanoma Among Adolescent Girls and Young Women in California. Trends by Socioeconomic Status and UV Radiation Exposure. Arch Dermatol. Published online March 21, 2011. doi:10.1001/archdermatol.2011.44