Adolescent girls and young women living in wealthy communities were more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma in a new study of skin cancer cases in California.

The authors think that might be because wealthier women may be spending lots of time out in the sun - at home and on vacation - and frequenting tanning beds.

"It's frightening actually," Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, a dermatologist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore who was not involved in the study, told Reuters Health.

"The message of practicing safe sun is just not getting through to the people that need to heed the warning," said Tanzi, who also heads the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington, D.C.

Melanoma is the most lethal form of skin cancer, killing almost 9,000 people in the U.S. last year, according to the National Cancer Institute. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light is known to increase the risk of melanoma.

Cases of melanoma have been rising in young white women in the United States in recent decades, more than doubling since the early 1970s.

Rates of melanoma were significantly higher in women in the highest socioeconomic categories according to the findings, which are published in the Archives of Dermatology.

In the wealthiest 20 percent of California neighborhoods, four or five out of 100,000 young white women were diagnosed with melanoma over the 5-year period from 1998 to 2002. For the poorest group, the rate was less than one in 100,000 over the same period.

Source: MSNBC / Reuters
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42200816