Dermatologist Dr. Jerry Brewer of the Mayo Clinic said there was widespread concern in recent years about the rising incidence of melanoma, which affects 75,000 Americans annually and results in nearly 9,000 deaths each year.
Brewer's research team conducted a population-based study using records from the Rochester Epidemiology Project, a collaboration between healthcare providers in southeastern Minnesota that allows researchers to study health and illnesses in the community.
The study, published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, found among white, non-Hispanic adults ages 40 to 60, the incidence of skin cancer increased 4.5-fold among men and 24-fold among women.
"The most striking finding was among women in that age group," Brewer said in a statement. "Women between 40 and 50 showed the highest rates of increase we've seen in any group so far."
In particular, women age 50 and younger showed a marked increase in melanoma. Although, women were more likely to develop melanoma, men were more likely to have deeper lesions, the study said.
Another significant finding was that the overall chances of surviving melanoma increased by 7 percent each year of the study.
The steepest increase in melanoma occurred in the last decade covered by the study, 2000 to 2009. The uptick, researchers speculated, might be connected to the popularization of tanning beds in the 1980s and 1990s.
"There's been a cultural trend for many decades in which people connect being tan with being fit and even successful," Brewer said.