Patients May Revert to Harmful Sun Behavior After Melanoma Diagnosis

October 15, 2013
Leah Lawrence

Patients with cutaneous malignant melanoma were found to have increased their daily UV radiation dose not only while abroad or on vacation, but also on a daily basis, according to the results of a new study.

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Patients with cutaneous malignant melanoma were found to have increased their daily UV radiation (UVR) dose not only while abroad or on vacation, but also on a daily basis, according to the results of a new study published in JAMA Dermatology. Although researchers cannot draw conclusions, the study results suggest that some of these patients may resume old sun habits even after their cancer diagnosis.

“Melanoma patients have an increased risk of a second primary melanoma later in life-a risk that may be lowered by reducing recreational sun behavior,” study author Luise Winkel Idorn, MD, PhD, of Bispebjerg Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark, told Cancer Network. “Hence, we found it interesting to study melanoma patients’ sun behavior immediately after diagnosis and up to 3 years after diagnosis to observe any possible change in behavior with time after diagnosis.”

To do that, Idorn and colleagues conducted a case-control study of 21 patients with melanoma and 21 controls. Patients were followed for 3 years and tracked for exposure to UVR during the first and second summers (n = 20) and first and third summers (n = 22). The researchers tracked behaviors such as the mean sun protection factor number, number of days using sunscreen, number of days with sunburn and the number of days with body exposure without sunscreen.

“Patients with cutaneous malignant melanoma increased their daily UVR dose on all days, on days with body exposure, on holidays, and on days abroad from the first to the third summer after diagnosis of melanoma,” Idorn said. “In contrast, controls maintained a stable UVR dose during the 3-year follow-up period.”

The researchers did find that patients with melanoma had fewer days with body exposure without sunscreen (P = .003), and more days applying sunscreen on the upper extremities (P = .01) compared with controls during year one of follow-up.

After just the first year of follow-up, the group of patients with melanoma had increased the daily UVR dose while on vacation (P = .008), and while abroad (P = .02), to a level above that of controls. By the second year of follow-up, patients who had melanoma had increased their daily UVR dose to one above that of the control patients.

“These findings suggest that melanoma patients do not maintain a cautious sun behavior in connection with an increase in UVR exposure,” Idorn said.  “We think that it might be quite difficult for people, who really enjoy the sun, to stay out of the sun, even after a diagnosis of skin cancer.”

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