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Sunburnt Man

Does Your Sunburn History and Location Predict Cancer Risk?

Sunburn, a proxy measure of acute exposure of the skin to intense solar radiation, is a well-known predictor of melanoma risk and is associated with increased risks of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and basal cell carcinoma (BCC). Existing evidence suggests that different types of skin cancer are associated with different patterns of sun exposure. While risks of SCC and BCC are more closely linked to a continuous, chronic sun exposure pattern, risk of melanoma is more strongly associated with a pattern of intermittent sun exposure. Sunburn is more typically classified as an intermittent sun exposure. Healthcare providers must rely on patients’ reports about their sunburn history, so a recent study wondered if sunburn history is valuable in predicting risk of developing skin cancers. To address the above question of interest, the authors conducted a prospective study using data from two large cohort studies of women and men.

Participants answered questions about their history of severe and painful sunburns on various parts of the body. Results showed that after extensive adjustment for other risk factors, baseline history of severe sunburn was associated with risk of 3 different skin cancers in a dose-response manner, and that it was more closely associated with melanoma risk than with risk of SCC or BCC in men. Sunburn on the trunk appeared to predict melanoma risk more robustly than sunburns at other body sites in 2 sex-specific cohorts.

The authors state that the finding that severe sunburn on the trunk may be a stronger predictor of melanoma risk than sunburn at other body sites is noteworthy, as previous studies did not account for the anatomical site of the sunburn. The authors conclude that sunburn history can be of value in early detection of melanoma; in clinical practice, healthcare providers might want to pay more attention to those who report a history of severe sunburn on the trunk.


Byline: Martha L. Sikes, MS, RPh, PA-C

Posted: August 1, 2016

Source: American Journal of Epidemiology
Adapted from the original article.

[Image: Pavel Ševela / Wikimedia Commons]

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