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Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention

A Division of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services

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Maine Cancer Registry - Melanoma: Risk Factors, Prevention & Early Detection

Melanoma in the U.S.

Melanoma incidence increased faster than any other cancer in the 1970's and 1980's but has begun to level off. It is now the 5th most common cancer among U.S. men and the 6th most common cancer among U.S. women. According to the 2006 American Cancer Society, Cancer Facts & Figures, an estimated 62,190 cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in the U.S. and 7,910 people will die from this disease annually. Melanoma is the most common cancer in U.S. men aged 35-44 years and the second most common cancer, after breast cancer, in women from this age group. Incidence around the world varies a hundred-fold with the highest rates among Whites in Australia and the lowest rates in parts of Asia.

Risk Factors for Melanoma

There are several factors that may increase a person's chance of getting melanoma:

  • Family history of melanoma
  • Large number of moles (nevi)
  • Presence of atypical moles (dysplastic nevi)
  • Intermittent blistering sunburns, especially in childhood and adolescence
  • Skin that burns easily, tans poorly or freckles

Prevention of Melanoma

The most important thing people can do to reduce their chances of getting melanoma is to:

  • Avoid being outside in mid-day hours
  • Use sunscreen
  • Wear hats and long sleeves when in the sun

Early Detection of Melanoma

Why is early detection important?

  • Cases detected early (local disease) have about a 99% chance of living for at least five more years.
  • Cases detected at the distant stage (when disease has spread to another part of the body) have only a 15% chance of living for five more years.

How to Improve your Chances of Detecting Melanoma Early

Talk to your health care provider about regular skin exams if you have any of the following:

  • Many moles on your skin
  • A history of dysplastic nevi (atypical moles)
  • Family members with melanoma or dysplastic nevi
  • A history of melanoma

If you have a mole that is changing (for example in size or color or sensation) see your health care provider.

For information on melanoma cancer statistics in Maine, please see MCR's Annual Reports.