County of Marin - Press Releases - Melanoma Rates

For Immediate Release
July 23, 2014

Report Shows Elevation in Marin Melanoma Rates

Incidents 43 percent higher than the rest of the Bay Area

San Rafael, CA –Melanoma is now the second most commonly diagnosed cancer after prostate cancer for men in Marin County, according to researchers at the Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC) and the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services.

The new report found changes in melanoma incidence rates for Marin as part of the regular surveillance of cancer in the nine-county Greater Bay Area. Key findings of the report include:

  • Melanoma incidence is 43 percent higher in Marin than the Bay Area average from 2007-2011.
  • The elevation in melanoma incidence in Marin is mostly limited to residents aged 65 and older at diagnosis.
  • Among Marin men, melanoma is now the second most commonly diagnosed cancer after prostate cancer.

“We are keeping a close eye on the increasing rates we see in Marin County and will continue to work with the health officials and dermatologists there to make sure the county is informed about melanoma and how to prevent it and catch it early,” said Dr. Christina Clarke, an epidemiologist at CPIC and lead author of the report.

The report suggests that higher percentages of people living in Marin have risk factors for being diagnosed with melanoma (such as fair skin, a history of intense sun exposure, access to screening services) than other areas, as opposed to any exposure unique about the geography of the county.

“Being active in the outdoors is one of the healthiest things we can do, especially as we age. This is an important reminder to bring along that wide-brimmed hat, wear sunscreen, protect yourself from the sun and keep connected to your regular doctor for checkups,” Public Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis said. “We would love to see even more people being active in Marin’s beautiful outdoors. We just want to see them well protected from the sun.”

Among the recommendations for screening and prevention were:

  • Regular self-examinations with assistance from partner, family member or friend leading to earlier detection.
  • Utilizing the five main sun-protective behaviors to reduce ultraviolet exposure: wearing a hat, wearing a long-sleeved shirt, using sunscreen, wearing sunglasses and seeking shade when possible.

“The Marin County data supports the message that it’s never too late to start sun protection practices,” said Dr. Susan Swetter, Professor of Dermatology and Director of the Pigmented Lesion and Melanoma Program, Stanford University Medical Center and Cancer Institute.  “Awareness of melanoma warning signs and notifying your primary care provider can be lifesaving.”

Dr. Jeffrey Schneider, Chief of Dermatology, Kaiser Permanente Marin and Southern Sonoma, said the report should not change one’s overall approach to health, “but it should make us more careful about sun protection when enjoying our wonderful Marin outdoor spaces.” Kaiser recommends wearing a broad-brimmed hat and a broad-spectrum sunscreen. It’s handy to keep a second set in your car or with some key items related to your outdoor activities. 

Schneider recommends the ABCDE rule for self-checks of moles:

Asymmetry
Border irregularity
Color variation
Diameter over 6 millimeters
Evolving over the past few weeks or months

“We recommend that residents ask for skin checks when seeing their primary care providers for routine or annual visits,” Schneider said.  

About the Cancer Prevention Institute of California

The Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC) is the nation’s premier organization dedicated to preventing cancer and to reducing its burden where it cannot yet be prevented. CPIC tracks patterns of cancer throughout the entire population and identifies those at risk for developing cancer. CPIC’s innovative cancer prevention research and education programs, together with the work of the Stanford Cancer Institute, deliver a comprehensive arsenal for defeating cancer. For more information, visit CPIC’s official website at www.cpic.org.

Contact:

Rochelle Ereman
Epidemiology Program Services Manager
Health and Human Services

899 Northgate Drive
Suite #104
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-3056
Email: Rochelle Ereman
Marin HHS website