Blistering Burns Predicted Skin Cancer

Melanoma linked to too much sun exposure early in life and family history

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Years of research and health education have made it known that the more sun you get, the higher the odds of eventually developing skin cancer. And sunburns could boost that risk even further.

New research suggests that while it’s important throughout life to minimize the effects of sun exposure, it’s particularly beneficial to avoid sunburns between the ages of 15 and 20.

A team of American scientists found that blistering burns in that age range increased the risk of developing three common types of skin cancer.

"Take precautions to protect yourself from sunburns."

Shaowei Wu, PhD, of Department of Dermatology at Harvard Medical School and the Channing Division of Network Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, co-authored this study with other scientists from Harvard, Brown University and Indiana University.

This research team looked at the link between risk factors and development of skin cancer in a group of 108,916 women who were part of the two-decade Nurses’ Health Study ending in 2009.

Conducting follow-up with the study participants, Dr. Wu and colleagues found 6,995 diagnoses of basal cell cancer, 880 diagnoses of squamous cell cancer and 779 diagnoses of melanoma.

Melanoma forms in cells that produce pigment. Basal cell cancer affects the outer layer of skin, and squamous cell cancer affects cells below the surface.

Participants in this study were divided into five groups based on their reported levels of lifetime sun exposure.

Compared to the group with the least amount of sun exposure, the group with the most sun exposure had more the double the risk of developing basal and squamous cell cancer.

The group with the most exposure also had a higher rate of melanoma.

Based on participants' responses, those who had five or more sunburns that caused blistering between the ages of 15 and 20 had higher odds of developing all three types of skin cancer.

Family history of melanoma was also found to play a part in increasing risk of developing skin cancer.

The researchers concluded that, based on their study, sun exposure in both early life and adulthood was predictive of basal and squamous cell cancer.

Melanoma risk was primarily linked to sun exposure in early life.

This research was published online May 29 in the peer-reviewed journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Grant funding was provided by the National Institutes of Health. The authors did not disclose any conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
June 3, 2014
Last Updated:
June 3, 2014