Predictors of Late Stage Melanoma Diagnosis: Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Patients in Tennessee

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Every year more than 72,000 adolescents and young adults (AYAs) in the United States (US) aged 15-39 years are diagnosed with cancer. AYAs represent a population that falls into a care gap between pediatric and adult medical services. Additionally, AYAs have experienced increased cancer incidence and decreased five-year survival rates compared to other age groups. The spectrum of tumors seen in AYAs differs from children and older adults, with 90% of the tumors stemming from ten cancer types. Melanoma of the skin, characterized by the uncontrolled growth of pigment-producing cells, is the third most common cancer diagnosed among AYAs in the US. Overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight or artificial sources is the greatest risk factor for melanoma. AYAs seem to be particularly at risk for developing melanoma due to increased UV exposure early in life. This study’s objectives were to understand the unique characteristics of melanoma in AYAs in Tennessee and identify the predictors of late- stage diagnosis. The sample for this study includes all incident melanoma cancer cases (N=1109) in AYAs from the Tennessee Cancer Registry (TCR) for the years 2004-2008, inclusive. AYA cases were defined as cancer cases that were diagnosed in individuals ages 15-39 years, inclusive. Melanoma cases were defined according to the International Classification of Diseases- Oncology (ICD-O-3) site codes C440-C449. Melanoma cases that had a specified stage at diagnosis were included for final analysis (N= 315). Stage of diagnosis was determined through the SEER Summary Stage 2000 variable and coded into in situ, localized, and combined regional & distant stage. Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed for the following predictor variables: insurance status (private insurance vs. other), age group (5- year groups), and sex (male vs. female). The majority of the sample was white (96.5%), female (63.8%), had private insurance (85%) and was diagnosed with localized stage melanoma (69.4%). Individuals with government insurance were eight times more likely to be diagnosed with late stage melanoma compared to individuals with private insurance (OR 8.4, CI 3.0-23.3, p < 0.01). AYAs in the 15-19 year old age group were six times more likely to be diagnosed with late stage melanoma compared to 35-39 year olds (OR 6.3, CI 1.7-22.9, p=0.01). Females were 57% less likely to be diagnosed with late stage melanoma compared to males (OR 0.53, CI 0.30-0.93, p < 0.05). These findings indicate that individuals with government insurance may not receive adequate melanoma screening and preventative care compared to individuals with private insurance. While females were less likely to be diagnosed with late stage melanoma, females have a much greater risk of being diagnosed with melanoma at any stage. Finally, the increased risk of late stage diagnosis in the 15-19 year old age group may be associated with greater UV exposure from indoor and outdoor tanning. These data suggest the need for targeted cancer awareness and control activities specific to AYAs. Future studies are needed to explore the variations in late stage diagnosis of melanoma in AYAs in Tennessee.


Johnson City, TN

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