Incidences of Head and Neck Melanoma Have Increased Over 50% in the Past Two Decades

The incidence of pediatric, adolescent, and young adult head and neck melanoma in North America has increased by 51% in the past two decades, especially among males aged 15 to 39, according to the findings of a study published in JAMA Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery.

“Melanoma is one of the most common cancers worldwide, typically diagnosed in older adults. There is an increasing incidence in the younger population (age ≤40 years) in America,” the study authors wrote in their abstract. “In addition, approximately 1 in 5 cases of melanoma affect the head and neck. However, there are limited data on the incidence of head and neck melanoma in the pediatric, adolescent, and young adult population in North America (United States and Canada).”

In this study, which took place from January 26 to July 21, 2019, researchers conducted a descriptive analysis of retrospective data on incidences of head and neck melanoma from the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries’ Cancer in the North American public data set between 1995 and 2014. They assessed 12,462 pediatric, adolescent, and young adult patients (54.6% male) between the ages of 0 and 39 years of age who had been diagnosed with melanoma in primary head and neck sites including: the skin of lip; the eyelid; the external era; skin of other/unspecified parts of face; and skin on the scalp and neck. The researchers used log-linear regression to estimate the annual percentage change in age-adjusted incidence rates (AAIRs) of head and neck melanoma.

According to the results of the study, in North America, the incidence of head and neck melanoma increased by 51.1% from 1995 to 2014. The study found that the rate was higher in the United States (AAIR=0.52; 95% CI, 0.51 to 0.53 per 100,000 person-years) than Canada (AAIR=0.43; 95% CI, 0.40 to 0.45 per 100,000 persons). Moreover, in the United States, the incidence increased 4.68% yearly from 1995 to 2000 and 1.15% yearly from 2000 to 2014. Also, in Canada, the incidence increased 2.18% yearly from 1995 to 2014. Overall, an increased associated for developing head and neck melanoma was linked to being male (AAIR=0.55; 95% CI, 0.54 to 0.57 per 100,000 persons), being older (AAIR=0.79; 95% CI, 0.79 to 0.80 per 100,00 persons), and being non-Hispanic white (AAIR=0.79; 95% CI, 0.77 to 0.80 per 100 000 persons).

The authors wrote of their findings that: “The apparent increasing incidence of head and neck melanoma among the pediatric, adolescent, and young adult population of North America warrants increasing public health awareness and education, especially among males.”