Solar radiation is a major risk factor for melanoma. The incidence of and mortality from melanoma have been increasing over the last 50 years in all developed countries with large Caucasian populations. But as the incidence of melanoma increases, so does survival, suggesting the possibility that increasing sun exposure increases melanoma survival in addition to melanoma incidence. However, increased early detection of melanoma might also explain the increased survival.
To examine the relationship between sun exposure, early detection, and melanoma survival, Marianne Berwick, Ph.D., M.P.H., of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, and colleagues conducted a population-based, casecontrol study of more than 500 patients from the Connecticut Tumor Registry who had been diagnosed with melanoma in the late 1980s.
Three measures of sun exposure--sunburn, high intermittent sun exposure, and solar elastosis (an indicator of the skin's sun damage)--and a personal history of skin awareness (a measure of early detection) were all inversely associated with death from melanoma. Melanoma patients with higher levels of sun exposure or skin awareness were less likely to die. In addition, both solar elastosis and skin awareness were independently associated with increased survival from melanoma, even after adjusting for certain melanoma characteristics, such as lesion thickness and location. The authors conclude that sun exposure is associated with increased survival from melanoma.