Melanoma Mortality Trends Vary By States, Region

DENVER—Whether death rates from melanoma are going up or down in the United States depends on the state and region, according to a research letter published online by JAMA Dermatology.

The study, which was led by the Denver VAMC and the University of Colorado School of Medicine, compares melanoma death and incidence by states and in four geographic regions, using a publicly-available database.1

Demographic differences appear to be a factor in the variation in melanoma death and incidence rates among states, according to study authors.

Among the findings is that 23 of 48 states (with data for 2003 and 2013) had a decrease in melanoma death rates; four states had no change, and 21 states saw an increase.

At the same time, 11 of the 49 states with reported melanoma incidence rates saw a decrease, and 38 states had an increase.

More specifically, the study found melanoma dropped in five of nine Northeastern states over a decade, and death rates declined in six of the nine states. Yet, incidence and death rates rose in most Midwestern states studied. While melanoma cases also went up in the South and West, death rates varied in those regions.

Regional ethnic differences and other demographics play a role, according to the study, which notes that melanoma is more common in whites and in people with light-colored eyes and red or blond hair.

“Promoting greater awareness of skin cancer through public health programs has been associated with increased documentation and incidence rates,” study authors wrote. “Lower death rates may further indicate that better treatment may be prolonging the life of patients with melanoma. Further research into the prevalence of melanoma in these four geographic regions is needed.”

  1. Mounessa JS, Caravaglio JV, Dellavalle RP. Comparison of Regional and State Differences in Melanoma Rates in the United States: 2003 vs 2013. JAMA Dermatol. 2016 Dec 28. doi: 10.1001/jamadermatol.2016.4625. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 28030665.

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