It is controversial whether worldwide increases in melanoma incidence represent a true epidemic. Dramatic increases in incidence in the setting of relatively stable mortality trends have also been attributed to expanded skin screening and detection of biologically indolent tumors with low metastatic potential. To better understand how melanoma incidence trends varied by severity at diagnosis and factors relevant to screening access, we assessed recent United States incidence and mortality trends by histologic type, tumor thickness, and area-level socioeconomic status (SES). We obtained population-based data regarding diagnoses of invasive melanoma among non-Hispanic whites from nearly 291 million person-years of observation by the Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) program (1992-2004). Age-adjusted incidence and mortality rates were calculated for SEER and a subset (California) for which small-area SES measure was available. Overall, melanoma incidence increased at 3.1% (P<0.001) per year. Statistically significant rises occurred for tumors of all histologic subtypes and thicknesses, including those >4 mm. Melanoma incidence rates doubled in all SES groups over a 10-year period whereas melanoma mortality rates did not increase significantly. We conclude that screening-associated diagnosis of thinner melanomas cannot explain the increasing rates of thicker melanomas among low SES populations with poorer access to screening.
View details for DOI 10.1038/jid.2008.423
View details for Web of Science ID 000267270300013
View details for PubMedID 19131946