What is AYA?

Adolescent and young adult, or AYA, refers to someone diagnosed with melanoma between the ages of 15-39. According to the National Cancer Institute, about 70,000 young people (ages 15-39) are diagnosed with cancer each year in the United States – accounting for about 5% of cancer diagnoses in the U.S. Unfortunately, research suggests that AYA patients have not had the same improvements in overall survival that either younger children or older adults have had.

Programs at several major cancer centers are now focusing on helping young adult patients and their families manage the emotional toll of a diagnosis, gain access to clinical trials, understand treatment and possible fertility risks and options, and connect with others who are facing similar issues.

In addition to the cancer-specific differences, AYA patients often have less access to clinical trials and are provided with insufficient, age-appropriate psychosocial support and health services. Improving access to these services may influence survival as well as overall quality of life.

Of great concern is the fact that the incidence of melanoma is largely preventable, yet continues to increase in the AYA population. An estimated 75% of melanomas diagnosed in people younger than 30 years of age appear to be linked to exposure to natural or artificial UV radiation. More must be done to protect skin health, reduce the rate of melanoma diagnoses and increase awareness of melanoma.

Because melanoma is a relatively rare diagnosis, it is important to find an oncologist who specializes in treating melanoma. In addition, a second opinion may be especially helpful when complicated medical decisions need to be made or if there are different treatment options to choose from.

Resources for AYA Patients

Please visit our Patient Resources page and scroll down to view a list of resources for AYA patients.

Learn more about Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Annual Young Adult Cancer Conference which will be held on April 6, 2019.

The ABCDEs of Melanoma

Although the ABCDEs of Melanoma can be a helpful tool in recognizing melanomas in adults, it does not apply to nodular melanoma – small, symmetrical, regular borders, single color. In addition, adolescents (19 and under by most definitions) often present with symptoms that are inconsistent with the ABCDE rules, making diagnosis difficult and misdiagnosis possible.