Investigators in Canada may have uncovered the factors contributing to the higher risk of melanoma among individuals living in Atlantic regions, according to a recent study published by Lagacé et al in Cancers. These findings may provide insights into effective strategies for skin cancer prevention.
The incidence of melanoma has been rising globally. Although researchers have reported higher-than-average incidence rates of melanoma in some Atlantic regions, neighboring regions have demonstrated more average incidence rates of melanoma.
Study Methods and Results
In this study, the investigators compared the ultraviolet radiation exposure and protective behaviors of 7,861 participants based on their gender, income, and highest educational attainment. They found that individuals with a higher income had an increased risk of melanoma—especially if they had more lifetime sun burns, used tanning beds, and had tanned skin. Similarly, individuals whose highest educational attainment was at the university level had greater rates of recreational sun exposure but were less likely to use tanning beds.
“A higher socioeconomic status is known to be associated with more vacations in sunny climates and recreational tanning, which likely…drives melanoma incidence in this population,” stated senior study author Ivan Litvinov, MD, PhD, FRCPC, Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine and Chair of the Division of Dermatology at McGill University.
However, the study authors also discovered that individuals earning less than $50,000 per year were more likely to work in outdoor settings and experience occupational sun exposure—placing them at a higher risk of developing melanoma. The investigators suggested that policies to protect outdoor workers may help to reduce the risk of melanoma.
When the investigators assessed the differences in the risk for melanoma between men and women, they found that women had less sun exposure and engaged in more sun-protective behaviors than did men. Further, men seemed to be more likely to report a higher number of lifetime sunburns as well as occupational and recreational sun exposure.
Nevertheless, women tended to wear fewer long-sleeve shirts and use tanning beds more often than men. These behaviors may contribute to the higher rate of melanoma in the extremities among women.
When it came to melanoma prevention, the investigators revealed that men expressed more negative beliefs toward sunscreen use than women. Consistent with this, women were more concerned about new moles and were more likely to seek medical advice from a physician when new moles were detected. The investigators emphasized that these behavior patterns may have been responsible for the higher rate of melanoma and other skin cancers among men and lower overall melanoma incidence and mortality among women.
These study findings suggest that individuals residing in the most high-risk communities had more sunburn and sun exposure rates compared with those residing in neighboring regions. The investigators were surprised to note that those living in these high-risk communities had more knowledge of sun-protective behaviors and melanoma awareness.
“To prevent skin cancer, many [individuals] need to act on the knowledge they already have. Applying sunscreen is one of the effective ways to prevent skin cancer,” Dr. Litvinov underscored.
The investigators proposed that public health efforts aimed at reducing skin cancer should be tailored to target specific demographic groups. “You need to have a different sun-protection message when you’re talking to a single young man [vs] a mother of three children. Governments also have a direct role to play in combating rising rates of melanoma. [Countries] should follow in the footsteps of many [others] that have removed sales tax on sunscreen to promote their use,” concluded Dr. Litvinov.
Disclosure: For full disclosures of the study authors, visit mdpi.com.The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.