Despite an elevated lifetime risk for recurrence, as many as one-in-four melanoma survivors report they do not wear sunscreen when going outside on a warm sunny day, according to study results presented at the American Association for Cancer Research 2013 Meeting in Washington, D.C.
Additionally, 15.4% reported never or rarely staying in the shade to avoid the sun, and 2.1% said they used a tanning bed in the year prior to being surveyed.
“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,” study researcher Anees B. Chagpar, MD, MPH, associate professor of surgery at Yale School of Medicine and director of the breast center at Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven, said in a press release.
Risk for a second primary melanoma is about nine times greater among survivors than melanoma risk in the general population, according to Chagpar. Despite this risk, 27.3% of melanoma survivors reported never wearing sunscreen when going outside on a warm, sunny day for more than one hour.
Ultraviolet radiation from the sun and indoor tanning is known to contribute to about two-thirds of melanoma cases. Despite widespread public health campaigns about the dangers of tanning, nearly 30 million people continue to visit tanning salons each year. Other melanoma risk factors include family history of skin cancer, fair skin and a history of melanoma.
For the current study, Chagpar and colleagues evaluated data from the 2010 National Health Interview Survey that focused on self-reported history of melanoma, sun protection practices and indoor tanning. The survey included 27,120 adults,171 of whom had a prior history of melanoma.
Overall, melanoma survivors took more precautions against melanoma than the general population, the researchers found:
- Survivors were more likely to stay in the shade — 15.6% vs. 10.5% of the general population (P<0.001)
- Survivors were more likely to report always using sunscreen — 32.0% vs. 17.2% (P=0.005)
- Survivors were less likely to have used indoor tanning devices in the past 12 months — 2.1% vs. 5.5% (P=0.009)
- Survivors were more likely to wear a baseball cap or visor (31.3% vs. 18.4%), wide-brimmed hat (20.5% vs. 6.1%) and/or long-sleeved shirt (12% vs. 5.2%) when outside on a warm, sunny day for more than an hour
Chagpar recommended health care providers use these data to educate the general population about sun protection, as the results revealed that only 17.2% of the population reports always using sunscreen and 5.5% still use tanning beds.