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Melanoma/Skin Cancer Health Center

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Bad Sunburns While Young and Melanoma Risk

Odds for deadly skin cancer rise 80 percent, nurses' study finds

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Mary Elizabeth Dallas

HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, May 30, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- White women who get five or more blistering sunburns between the ages of 15 and 20 have an 80 percent increased risk for melanoma -- the most deadly form of skin cancer, new study findings indicate.

Researchers also found these women have a 68 percent greater risk for two other forms of skin cancer known as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

"Our results suggest that sun exposures in both early life and adulthood were predictive of non-melanoma skin cancers, whereas melanoma risk was predominantly associated with sun exposure in early life," according to Dr. Abrar Qureshi, professor and chair of the department of dermatology at Brown University and Rhode Island Hospital in Providence.

"Parents may need to be advised to pay more attention to protection from early-life sun exposure for their kids in order to reduce the likelihood of developing melanoma as they grow up. Older individuals should also be cautious with their sun exposure, because cumulative sun exposure increases skin cancer risk as well," Qureshi said in a news release from the American Association for Cancer Research.

In conducting the study, published May 29 in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, the researchers followed nearly 109,000 white female nurses for about 20 years. When the study began, the women were aged 25 to 42. They were asked about their medical history. The researchers also assessed their risk factors for skin cancer, such as the number of moles they had, if they had a family history of the disease and the number of blistering sunburns they had in their late teens.

Over the course of the study, the investigators collected more recent information from the women on their skin cancer risk. Specifically, they were asked for updates on their family history as well as their use of tanning beds, alcohol and cigarettes.

The study participants lived in 14 different states. The researchers took this into account and calculated each woman's total ultraviolet (UV) light exposure, depending on how long they lived in any given place. The women were placed into three categories based on this UV exposure: low, medium and high.

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