Reuters Health Study "After melanoma, people head back to the sun"

October 2, 2013

Reuters Health
By: Genevra Pittman
October 2, 2013

"People with the most dangerous type of skin cancer tend to stay out of the sun and wear extra sunscreen the year after being diagnosed. But a new small study suggests those precautions don't last.

Two to three years after being diagnosed with melanoma, people spent as many days in the sun and were exposed to at least as much UV radiation as their peers without the disease, researchers found.

"Something tells us that they relax more when time passes by after diagnosis," Dr. Luise Idorn, the study's lead author from Bispebjerg Hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark, said.

"We think they just regress back to old habits."

Rates of melanoma have been rising in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. It predicts over 76,000 new melanomas will be diagnosed in 2013.

People who have had melanoma have a higher than average chance of getting it again. But that risk can be reduced if they cover up and stay out of the sun, Idorn told Reuters Health.

To see how well patients protect themselves, she and her colleagues tracked 20 people during the three summers after they were diagnosed with melanoma.

They compared those patients to another 20 melanoma-free people who mirrored the patients in their age, gender and skin type.

All study participants recorded the time they spent in the sun and use of sunscreen in daily diaries. They also wore watches that measured UV radiation exposure.

During the first summer after patients were diagnosed with melanoma, they spent fewer days in the sun without sunscreen than people in the comparison group, the researchers found.

However, patients' daily UV radiation dose rose by 25 percent from the first summer to the second, and increased again in the third summer. People without melanoma, on the other hand, were exposed to similar levels of radiation across all three years.

UV exposure tended to be higher among patients than people without skin cancer by the third summer. But that difference was small and could have been due to chance, Idorn and her colleagues reported Wednesday in JAMA Dermatology." Read More.