Some Melanoma Survivors Still Use Tanning Beds, Skip Sunscreen

Released: 1-Apr-2013 3:00 PM EDT
Embargo expired: 8-Apr-2013 1:00 PM EDT
Source Newsroom: American Association for Cancer Research (AACR)
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Citations AACR Annual Meeting 2013

Newswise — WASHINGTON, D.C. — Although most survivors of melanoma take precautions to protect their skin from the sun and further occurrences of cancer, data presented at the AACR Annual Meeting 2013, held in Washington, D.C., April 6-10, revealed that more than a quarter do not use sunscreen when outside for more than an hour, and more than 2 percent still use tanning beds.

“We know that melanoma is a malignancy prevalent in our population, and we know that for many people with melanoma, sun exposure is a major risk factor for recurrence and sun protection may reduce their chances of getting melanoma again,” said Anees B. Chagpar, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of surgery at Yale School of Medicine, in New Haven, Conn., and director of the Breast Center at Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven. “Although we found that melanoma survivors did better than the general public at protecting their skin from the sun, we also found that more than a quarter of melanoma survivors never wear sunscreen. That blew my mind.”

Chagpar and colleagues evaluated data from the 2010 National Health Interview Survey, an annual, cross-sectional survey of the civilian, noninstitutionalized population of the United States that asks questions on a wide range of health topics. They focused on data collected on self-reported history of melanoma, sun protection practices and indoor tanning.

Of 27,120 adults, 171 had a prior history of melanoma. Researchers found that compared with those individuals who reported no history of melanoma, survivors were more likely to stay in the shade (15.6 percent versus 10.5 percent of the general population) and wear a baseball cap/visor (31.3 percent versus 18.4 percent), wide-brimmed hat (20.5 percent versus 6.1 percent) and/or long-sleeved shirt (12 percent versus 5.2 percent) when outside on a warm, sunny day for more than an hour. They were also more likely to always wear sunscreen (32 percent versus 17.2 percent).

However, 15.4 percent of melanoma survivors still reported rarely or never staying in the shade, 27.3 percent reported never wearing sunscreen when going outside on a warm, sunny day for more than an hour (compared with 35.4 percent of the general population), and 2.1 percent reported using a tanning bed during the previous year (compared with 5.5 percent of the general population).

“We now know that a significant proportion of melanoma survivors still could be doing better. This study speaks to what we could do to educate melanoma survivors on how to prevent recurrence,” Chagpar said.

In addition, she recommended researchers use the data to educate the general population, as the results revealed that only 17.2 percent of Americans will always use sunscreen and 5.5 percent still use tanning beds.

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Founded in 1907, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is the world’s first and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research and its mission to prevent and cure cancer. AACR membership includes more than 34,000 laboratory, translational and clinical researchers; population scientists; other health care professionals; and cancer advocates residing in more than 90 countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise of the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, biology, diagnosis and treatment of cancer by annually convening more than 20 conferences and educational workshops, the largest of which is the AACR Annual Meeting with more than 17,000 attendees. In addition, the AACR publishes eight peer-reviewed scientific journals and a magazine for cancer survivors, patients and their caregivers. The AACR funds meritorious research directly as well as in cooperation with numerous cancer organizations. As the scientific partner of Stand Up To Cancer, the AACR provides expert peer review, grants administration and scientific oversight of team science and individual grants in cancer research that have the potential for near-term patient benefit. The AACR actively communicates with legislators and policymakers about the value of cancer research and related biomedical science in saving lives from cancer. For more information about the AACR, visit www.AACR.org.

Abstract Number: 1365

Presenter: Anees B. Chagpar, M.D., M.P.H.

Authors: Jeremy Puthumana, Leah Ferrucci, Susan Mayne, Donald Lannin, Anees Chagpar. Yale University, New Haven, CT

Purpose: Unprotected sun exposure is a key risk factor for melanoma and further exposure to ultraviolet radiation after a melanoma diagnosis may increase the risk of a subsequent melanoma. We sought to determine whether melanoma survivors observed sun protection practices more vigilantly than the rest of the population.

Methods: The National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) is an annual, cross-sectional survey of the civilian, non-institutionalized population of the United States on a wide range of health topics. We used the 2010 NHIS data on self-reported history of melanoma, sun protection practices, and indoor tanning to determine if individuals with a previous history of melanoma adhered more to sun protection practices than the general population.

Results: In 2010, the NHIS surveyed 27,120 adults, of whom 171 (0.74%) had a prior history of melanoma. 54.8% of melanoma survivors were men, and 10.2% were under the age of 40. More melanoma survivors reported they always stay in the shade than the general population (15.6% vs. 10.5%, p<0.001); however, 15.4% of melanoma survivors still reported rarely or never staying in the shade. Melanoma survivors were more likely (than their general population counterparts) to always wear a baseball cap/visor (31.3% vs. 18.4%, p=0.028), a wide-brimmed hat (20.5% vs. 6.1%, p<0.001), and a long-sleeved shirt (12.0% vs. 5.2%, p=0.003) when going outside on a warm, sunny day for more than one hour. They were also more likely to report always using sunscreen (32.0% vs. 17.2%, p=0.005); however, 27.3% of melanoma survivors reported never wearing sunscreen when going outside on a warm sunny day for more than one hour. No significant relationship was found between melanoma survivors and the general population in wearing long pants/skirts on a sunny day (22.2% of melanoma survivors always wear such clothing versus 17.7% of the general population, p=0.404). In addition, melanoma survivors were less likely to have used indoor tanning devices in the past 12 months than the general public (2.1% vs. 5.5%, p=0.009).

Conclusion: Melanoma survivors, in general, engage in more sun protection practices than the general population. However, the fact that many do not seek shade and never use sunscreen, and some reported tanning bed use, remains a concern for their skin cancer risk.


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