Cumulative Sun Exposure and Melanoma in a Population‐Based Case–Control Study: Does Sun Sensitivity Matter?

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Cutaneous melanoma (CM) has consistently been associated with intermittent sun exposure, while the association with chronic sun exposure is debated. The goal of this research was to examine the complex relationship between CM, sun sensitivity and sun exposure based on theoretical concepts of how these factors may be associated. Detailed sun exposure histories across life periods and various measures of sun sensitivity were collected in a population‐based case–control study of melanoma in Iowa, USA. Participants were asked about their hours of sun exposure per day between March and October each year over periods or decades of life to estimate cumulative lifetime hours of sun exposure. Increased odds ratios (ORs) for CM were seen for most standard measures of sun sensitivity except for the tendency to sunburn. Minimal associations were seen with total hours of sun exposure early in life. However, an interaction was seen between fair skin color and lifetime hours of sun exposure, where the strongest associations with CM were seen among medium‐skinned and dark‐skinned participants. This suggests that cumulative sun exposure at high levels may increase CM among non‐sun‐sensitive individuals typically at lower risk of CM. Such a finding has implications for the prevention effort for melanoma regarding time in the sun among darker‐skinned individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1008
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 1 2022


  • Cumulative sun exposure
  • Cutaneous melanoma
  • Skin color
  • Sun exposure
  • Sun sensitivity
  • Total sun exposure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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