The Rise in Skin Cancer in Young Adults

Dermatologist examining skin cancer in young adults

I have been seeing a lot of 20 and 30-year-olds with skin cancer.
By Rina Allawh, MD; Board-Certified Dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in King of Prussia, PA.

What may come to a surprise to many is that skin cancer can occur in young adults. In fact, skin cancer, specifically melanoma, is on the RISE in young people. Melanoma is one of the most common cancers in young adults (especially young female) to date, according to the American Cancer Society. Melanoma is now the leading cause of cancer death in women ages 25 to 30. Basal cell carcinoma is also on the rise in younger adults. Traditionally, these slow-growing skin cancers were assumed to be a cancer primarily affecting older adults (50+ years of age); however, more and more younger individuals are being diagnosed with basal cell skin cancer. Prior tanning bed use, blistering sunburns and extensive sun exposure have been shown to be the main risk factors for these types of non-melanoma skin cancer. Believe it or not: Just one blistering sunburn in adolescence or young adulthood nearly doubles your risk for having a melanoma later in life.

Why is this important?

Skin cancers at a younger age puts an individual more at risk for not only more skin cancers later in life, but more aggressive subtypes of skin cancer. Majority of skin cancers are removed by a process of excising the skin cancer and as a result, may leave scars on the skin. Having extensive sun exposure can also lead to premature aging: fine lines and wrinkles, sun spots and skin atrophy (thinning).

What can you look out for?

Basal cell skin cancers often appear as a pink pearly bump, acne-like growth that may slowly grow overtime, bleed without touching or traumatizing it and at times, may be painful or itchy. Melanomas often appear as a new spot; however, melanomas may arise from pre-existing moles. If you have a mole that has changed in size, appearance or color it is important to have the lesion evaluated.

Think of the ABCDEs


Look out for these warning signs and if you see your mole with any of these attributes, don’t wait to see a dermatologist.
A: Asymmetry
B: Border (Not well-defined border; has a smudged appearance)
C: Color (multiple colors, changing colors)
D: Diameter: >7mm or the end of a pencil eraser
E: Evolution (Changing overtime in size, shape, appearance)

Most importantly, think of the “ugly duckling” sign

Meaning it stands out from your other moles and growths. When in doubt have it checked out! How often should I have full skin examinations? The general recommendation is a yearly full skin examination (head to toe), including the scalp, nails and skin. With increasing rates of skin cancer in younger individuals, it is even more important to establish care and have your entire skin evaluated by a board-certified dermatologist. Sun protection, sun protection, sun protection. Protecting yourself with broad-spectrum sunscreen daily to the face and exposed areas of the skin is very important to prevent skin cancer and aging skin changes.

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. Skin cancer is the only cancer that is preventable. It’s also very treatable when caught early. Annual skin exams and sun protection methods are your best defenses against skin cancer. Schedule your skin exam.

About Schweiger Dermatology Group

Schweiger Dermatology Group was founded to help make excellent dermatology care accessible throughout the Northeast. In 2010, Dr. Eric Schweiger started the practice with a single location in Midtown Manhattan. When he saw the need for high-quality dermatology care that did not require weeks or months of waiting to see a qualified provider, his vision of a multi-location practice was born.

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