Head and Neck Melanoma Incidence Trends in Children and Young Adults in the United States and Canada

Key Points

Question  What are the incidence trends for pediatric, adolescent, and young adult head and neck melanoma in the United States and Canada?

Findings  In this population-based, North American Association of Central Cancer Registries study of 12 462 cases in the United States and Canada, head and neck melanoma increased by 51.1% from 1995 to 2014 in both countries combined. In the United States, this increasing incidence was mainly associated with white males, aged 15 to 39 years.

Meaning  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.

Importance  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. 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).

Objective  To assess 20-year demographic and incidence changes associated with head and neck melanoma in the pediatric, adolescent, and young adult population in North America.

Design, Setting, and Participants  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 from 1995 to 2014 was conducted. The data set currently includes 93% of the United States and 64% of the Canadian populations. Eligible data were from 12 462 pediatric, adolescent, and young adult patients (aged 0-39 years) with a confirmed diagnosis of melanoma (International Classification of Diseases–Oncology 3 histologic types 8720-8790) in primary head and neck sites: skin of lip, not otherwise specified (C44.0); eyelid (C44.1); external ear (C44.2); skin of other/unspecified parts of face (C44.3); and skin of scalp and neck (C44.4). The study was conducted from January 26 to July 21, 2019.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Log-linear regression was used to estimate annual percentage change in age-adjusted incidence rates (AAIRs) of head and neck melanoma.

Results  Of the 12 462 patients with head and neck melanoma included in the study, 6810 were male (54.6%). The AAIR was 0.51 per 100 000 persons (95% CI, 0.50-0.52 per 100 000 persons). In North America, the incidence of head and neck melanoma increased by 51.1% from 1995 to 2014. The rate was higher in the United States (AAIR, 0.52; 95% CI, 0.51-0.53 per 100 000 person-years) than Canada (AAIR, 0.43; 95% CI, 0.40-0.45 per 100 000 persons). In the United States, the incidence increased 4.68% yearly from 1995 to 2000 and 1.15% yearly from 2000 to 2014. In Canada, the incidence increased 2.18% yearly from 1995 to 2014. Male sex (AAIR, 0.55; 95% CI, 0.54-0.57 per 100 000 persons), older age (AAIR, 0.79; 95% CI, 0.79-0.80 per 100 000 persons), and non-Hispanic white race/ethnicity (AAIR, 0.79; 95% CI, 0.77-0.80 per 100 000 persons) were associated with an increased incidence of head and neck melanoma.

Conclusions and Relevance  The incidence of pediatric, adolescent, and young adult head and neck melanoma in North America appears to have increased by 51.1% in the past 2 decades, with males aged 15 to 39 years the main cohort associated with the increase.

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