Cutaneous melanoma in women I. Exposure to sunlight, ability to tan, and other risk factors related to ultraviolet light

Elizabeth A. Holly, Diana A. Aston, Rosemary D Cress, David K. Ahn, Jennifer J. Kristiansen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

161 Scopus citations


A population-based case-control study of cutaneous malignant melanoma (CMM) was conducted In 452 women with melanoma and 930 control subjects aged 25-59 years in five San Francisco Bay Area counties between 1981 and 1986. Women were interviewed in their homes with regard to history of sunlight exposure and sunbums during different periods in their lives, phenotypic and host charactenstics, medical history, occupation, and demographic factors. Data were analyzed by the patients' histologic type of melanoma; 355 women were classified as having superficial spreading melanoma (SSM), 61 had nodular melanoma (NM), 13 had lentigo maligna melanoma, and 23 had other melanomas that could not be further classified upon histologic review by University of California dermatopathologists. Univariate results from analysis of factors related to sun exposure showed that the risk of all histologic types of CMM, SSM, and NM increased with increasing tendency of the subject to sunburn and with history of increased seventy and/or frequency of sunbums up to age 12 years. Risk of all types of CMM and SSM also increased with increasing number of sunbums for all age groups and with lack of use of sunscreen. After adjustment for each other and for phenotypic factors, history of sunburn up to age 12 and lack of sunscreen use were the primary sun-related factors associated with an increased risk of all types of CMM and SSM, while tendency to sunburn when exposed to 2-Jan hour of noontime sun and lack of use of sunscreen were related to NM. Although having frequent sunburns before age 12 and having severe sunburns before age 12 were both strongly associated with melanoma, having large numbers of sunbums during any time penod from elementary school through age 30 years and having sunburns during the 10 years prior to diagnosis or Interview were all associated with a doubling of risk for SSM after adjustment for other factors. These results suggest that the increased nsk of melanoma related to sunbums is not confined to childhood sunburns. Malntenance of an all-year tan provided no protective effect against melanoma after adjustment for tendency to bum. No association was noted with use of fluorescent lights or exposure to sunlamps for all types of CMM, SSM, or NM. Am J Epidemiol 1995;141:923-33.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)923-933
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Epidemiology
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 15 1995


  • Melanoma
  • Pigmentation
  • Risk factors
  • Sunburn
  • Sunlight
  • Ultraviolet rays
  • Women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Epidemiology


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