Massage therapists are often on the front line of skin cancer prevention, being in a position to point out suspicious lesions to clients. A new report indicates incidents of skin cancer are increasing for males and females—and the rate of skin cancer in young women is most exacerbated.

Tanning beds, sunburns and other increased exposure to UV rays may be behind the increase, according to report authors Mark P. Purdue, Laura E. Beane Freeman, William F. Anderson and Margaret A. Tucker, all of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, Rockville, Maryland. The report ran in the Letters section of the Journal of Investigative Dermatology on July 10.

The age-adjusted annual incidence of melanoma among young men increased from 4.7 cases per 100,000 persons in 1973 to 7.7 per 100,000 in 2004, the letter stated, while among women, age-adjusted annual incidence per 100,000 increased from 5.5 in 1973 to 13.9 in 2004.

“[O]ur analysis of … data suggests that melanoma incidence is increasing among young women,” the authors noted. “Additional studies are needed to clarify whether the increasing trends for melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer are the result of changes in UVR exposure in this population.”