Melanoma is the deadliest
form of skin cancer. Incidence of melanoma has risen steadily for the past 30 years. Melanoma
is now the sixth most common cancer in the United States, with an
estimated 76,380 cases diagnosed in 2016, according to the National
Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program.
Ultraviolet radiation from the sun has been proven to cause melanoma.
‘Melanoma survivors are more likely to limit sun exposure than people who had never had the disease, but some still reported seeking out suntans and getting sunburns.’
Survivors of melanoma were more likely to limit exposure to the sun
than people who had never had the disease, but some still reported
seeking out suntans and getting sunburns.
The findings are published in the Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention
, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.
Rachel Isaksson Vogel, an assistant
professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women's Health
at the University of Minnesota and colleagues compared sun exposure and protection
behaviors in long-term melanoma survivors with those who had never had
the disease, asking participants about the amount of time they had spent
outdoors in the summer, and about sun protection methods such as
wearing sunscreen, staying in the shade, wearing hats, and intentionally
Participants were also asked to report the number of red or
painful sunburns they had experienced in the past year, and whether they
had used a tanning bed or booth in the past year.
The study comprised 724 melanoma survivors and 660 controls. All
were between the ages of 25 and 59, and the survivors had been diagnosed
with invasive cutaneous melanoma between July 2004 and December 2007.
Overall, Vogel said, the survivors were more likely to report
optimal sun protection behaviors than those in the control group. Some
- 34.3% of survivors spent more than an hour outside on summer weekdays, compared with 44.4% of controls;
- 19.5% of survivors said they had gotten a sunburn in the previous year, compared with 36.5% of controls;
- 1.7% of survivors said they had used a tanning booth or
bed in the previous year, compared with 6.8% of controls; and
- 61.9% of survivors often or always wore sunscreen, compared with 38.4% of controls.
However, the study revealed suboptimal behaviors in some melanoma
survivors. Nearly 20% said they had gotten sunburned in the
previous year, and on weekend days, sun exposure was roughly equal
between the two groups, with 74.8% of the survivors and 79.7% of the controls spending more than two hours outside.
"At a time when rates of many
cancer types are declining, the rising incidence of melanoma is
worrisome," Vogel said. "People who have survived melanoma are at high
risk of another diagnosis, so reducing exposure to the sun is really
Vogel said that in conversations with individuals diagnosed with
melanoma, many survivors expressed a desire to "just live their lives,"
playing with their children, exercising, and socializing outdoors. She
said that in most cases, the participants had been diagnosed with stage 1
disease, when melanoma is often easily treated and has a five-year
survival rate of 98%.
"Because an early-stage melanoma diagnosis and treatment was likely a
fairly minor experience for most survivors, they might not understand
how serious an illness this is," Vogel said. "Survivors of melanoma have
a nearly nine-fold risk of developing melanoma again, and they can
reduce that risk if they make sun protection a priority."
Vogel noted that one limitation of the
study is that data on second primary melanomas - a new diagnosis at a
different site than the initial diagnosis - were not available for all
participants. Also, she said, it is possible that some subjects
over-reported their sun protection behaviors.