Melanoma cases on the rise for adolescents

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SARASOTA - Melanoma is a disease not commonly associated with young people, but a new study released by The Journal Pediatrics is changing that common misconceptions.

"I'm trying my hardest to keep my kids covered in sunscreen and hats," says Nicole Klein.  That's because Klein says she's concerned about the possibility of getting melanoma, which means she takes extra precautions to protect her family.

"There have been so many people I know that have been suffering from cancer, all different forms especially skin cancer, so its definently a real problem and I try to take care of it and make sure I do the best with my kids," said Klein.

And her concerns are on target. A new study published in The Journal Pediatrics shows adolescent melanoma, though rare, is on the rise.  And that trend is visible here on the Suncoast.

"We diagnose people with melanoma every week, and noticed that it has trended to the younger population," said Dr. Elizabeth Callahan from Skin Smart Dermatology.

According to the data, among girls ages 15 to 19, the incidence of melanoma doubled from fifteen cases per million in 1973 to almost thirty per million in 2009.  Dr. Callahan says poor sun habits could be the reason for the increase.    "Incidents of melanoma have been increasing in our younger population partially created by the use of tanning beds."

The risk factors surrounding tanning beds aren't new. Monday New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed a bill banning children under 17 from using commercial tanning beds.  A move Dr. Callahan is celebrating.

"I and the American Academy of dermatology are thrilled to see states start to take an active roll in limiting the use of a known carcinogens such as a tanning bed," said Callahan.

But tanning beds aren't the only risk factors. Officials, say spending long hours in the sun without sunscreen is just as dangerous.  

"With melanoma being on the rise the way it is I urge everyone to consider getting an annual skin check exam, " said Callahan.

If melanoma goes undetected officials say it can spread to other parts of your body and in some cases result in death. goes undetected officials say it can spread to other parts of your body and in some cases result in death.