The rate of melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, has more than doubled in the past three decades – and is on track to increase even more. With the Summer closing in, CDC researchers urge people to take more protection from ultraviolet rays.

Image via Pai Skin Care.

The primary cause of melanoma is ultraviolet light (UV) exposure in those with low levels of skin pigment. Melanoma is less common than other skin cancers, but is the most dangerous of all types, causing 75% of all skin cancer fatalities. Scientists and doctors are trying to find ways to keep melanoma rates down, but it all boils down to one thing: people should protect themselves from sun rays.

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CDC researchers tallied a total of 65,647 new cases of melanoma in 2011, and after adjusting for age, they found that there are 19.7 new cases per 100,000 Americans. The highest rate was by far in non-Latino whites, with 24.6 cases for every 100,000 people, while African Americans were at the other end of the spectrum – just 1.3 cases in 100,000. Through age 49, women were more likely than men to be diagnosed with melanoma, especially due to the popularity of indoor tanning, which researchers cite as one of the significant causes for the increased melanoma incidence. However, after 50, melanoma became more likely in men, who are less likely to use sunscreen or other forms of sun protection.

The good thing is that even though the number of cases has doubled, the mortality rate due to melanoma remained relatively constant between 1982 and 2011, which seems to indicate that we’re getting better and better at treating the disease.

Globally, in 2012, melanoma occurred in 232,000 people and caused 55,000 fatalities. It has become more common in the last 20 years in areas that are mostly Caucasian