Background Melanoma risk is related to sun exposure; we have investigated risk variation by tumour site and latitude.
Methods We performed a pooled analysis of 15 case–control studies (5700 melanoma cases and 7216 controls), correlating patterns of sun exposure, sunburn and solar keratoses (three studies) with melanoma risk. Pooled odds ratios (pORs) and 95% Bayesian confidence intervals (CIs) were estimated using Bayesian unconditional polytomous logistic random-coefficients models.
Results Recreational sun exposure was a risk factor for melanoma on the trunk (pOR=1.7; 95% CI: 1.4–2.2) and limbs (pOR=1.4; 95% CI: 1.1–1.7), but not head and neck (pOR=1.1; 95% CI: 0.8–1.4), across latitudes. Occupational sun exposure was associated with risk of melanoma on the head and neck at low latitudes (pOR=1.7; 95% CI: 1.0–3.0). Total sun exposure was associated with increased risk of melanoma on the limbs at low latitudes (pOR=1.5; 95% CI: 1.0–2.2), but not at other body sites or other latitudes. The pORs for sunburn in childhood were 1.5 (95% CI: 1.3–1.7), 1.5 (95% CI: 1.3–1.7) and 1.4 (95% CI: 1.1–1.7) for melanoma on the trunk, limbs, and head and neck, respectively, showing little variation across latitudes. The presence of head and neck solar keratoses was associated with increased risk of melanoma on the head and neck (pOR=4.0; 95% CI: 1.7–9.1) and limbs (pOR=4.0; 95% CI: 1.9–8.4).
Conclusion Melanoma risk at different body sites is associated with different amounts and patterns of sun exposure. Recreational sun exposure and sunburn are strong predictors of melanoma at all latitudes, whereas measures of occupational and total sun exposure appear to predict melanoma predominately at low latitudes.
Keywords: Melanoma, recreational sun exposure, occupational sun exposure, total sun exposure, sunburn, solar keratoses