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Does Lifetime Ambient UV Radiation Exposure Impact Skin Cancer Risk by Anatomic Site?

By: Julia Fiederlein
Posted: Friday, August 20, 2021

Cutaneous basal cell carcinoma has been found to be associated with ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure; however, information regarding the risks by anatomic site is limited. According to research conducted by Elizabeth K. Cahoon, PhD, of the National Cancer Institute, and colleagues in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, the estimated excess relative and absolute risks of basal cell carcinoma at all anatomic sites combined seemed to rise with increasing estimated cumulative lifetime ambient UV radiation exposure.

“We have demonstrated that basal cell carcinoma varies with increasing estimated lifetime ambient ultraviolet radiation exposure strongly for the head and neck, and to a somewhat lesser extent for the trunk, and modestly for the upper extremities,” the investigators commented.

Using data from the U.S. Radiologic Technologists cohort, the investigators focused on 63,912 cancer-free White radiologic technologists. Between 1983 and 2005, three surveys were undertaken.

At a mean follow-up of 16.9 years, a total of 2,124 cases of first basal cell carcinoma were reported. In this patient population, the log of excess relative risks of basal cell carcinoma per unit of cumulative ambient UV radiation (1.27 mJ/cm2) did not seem to vary by the anatomic site (P = .153). However, according to the investigators, the excess absolute risk of basal cell carcinoma in relation to UV radiation was higher on the head and neck (5.46 mJ/cm2) than on the trunk (2.56 mJ/cm2); lesser increases were observed for other anatomic sites.

Furthermore, patients with Gaelic ancestry appeared to have lower relative risks but higher absolute risks (P < .001). There also seemed to be higher absolute risks among those with a fair complexion; however, relative and absolute risks did not generally appear to be modified by other constitutional, lifestyle, or medical factors for any anatomic sites. The investigators noted that the excess absolute and relative risks were concentrated 5 to 15 years before the time of follow-up.

Disclosure: The study authors reported no conflicts of interest.



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