Incidence of melanoma in the head and neck areas increased 51.1% from 1995 to 2014, according to findings from a study published in JAMA Otolaryngology.
Researchers conducted a descriptive analysis of retrospective data on head and neck melanoma from the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries’ Cancer in North America public use data set, which includes 93% of the United States and 64% of the Canadian populations. They identified 12,462 patients aged from infancy to 39 years. Incidence increased annually, but it slowed starting in 2001: from 1995–2001, the annual increase was 3.71%, but it dropped to 1.21% from 2001–2014.
Of note, the researchers found that incidence rates of head and neck melanoma were higher in young males than females, which differs from melanomas on other parts of the body that usually see higher incidence in women.
Although only one in five melanomas are diagnosed in the head and neck region, the authors said that the area is associated with worse survival rates. In the study data, the majority of cases were on the skin of the neck and scalp.
They called for increased efforts to raise awareness about the cancer and its early signs and presentation and suggested that lay professionals (e.g., barbers, hairstylists) be trained to look for irregular skin on the scalp and neck when interacting with clients.