STUDY QUESTION: Are reproductive factors and exogenous hormone use associated with incidence of cutaneous melanoma while accounting for ultraviolet radiation (UVR) exposure across different life periods and sun sensitivity factors?
SUMMARY ANSWER: Earlier age at menarche and late age at first birth, but not other estrogen-related factors were associated with an increased incidence rate of melanoma, with higher risks observed for earlier age at menarche and light hair color at age 15 years.
WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: Although estrogens have been recognized as photosensitizing, previous studies have reported inconsistent findings for the association of melanoma with estrogen-related factors. Most have not collected detailed skin cancer risk factors and have not thoroughly investigated effect modification by ambient UVR and sun sensitivity.
STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: Participants in the US Radiologic Technologists study, an occupational cohort of 146 022 radiologic technologists (73% women), were included and followed during the four time periods (1983-1989, 1994-1998, 2003-2005 and 2012-2014).
PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: Non-Hispanic white female participants who completed both the second (baseline) and third questionnaires, and did not report having cancer (except keratinocyte carcinoma) at baseline, were included and followed from their age at completion of the second (baseline) questionnaire until the earlier of first primary cancer diagnosis, including invasive melanoma of the skin, or completion of either the third or fourth questionnaire. Reproductive and exogenous hormonal factors were ascertained from the second (baseline) questionnaire, which also collected information on demographic, lifestyle factors and sun sensitivity factors. Ambient UVR was assigned by linking geocoded residential locations, based on self-reported residential history information collected from the third questionnaire to satellite-based ambient UVR data from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer database. To examine the association of reproductive factors, exogenous hormone use, and first primary invasive melanoma of the skin, we used Poisson regression to calculate rate ratios (RRs) and 95% likelihood-based CIs, adjusting for attained age, birth cohort, lifetime average annual ambient UVR, contraceptives and menopausal hormone therapy use. To address the effect modification of ambient UVR exposure and sun sensitivities on melanoma risk, we conducted likelihood-ratio tests for multiplicative interaction.
MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: Over a median follow-up time of 17.1 years, 0.95% of eligible participants had an incident first primary melanoma (n = 444). Higher melanoma incidence rates were observed in participants with older attained age, blue/green/gray eye color, blonde/red/auburn natural hair color at age 15, fair skin complexion, and higher UVR. We found an increased incidence rate of melanoma in women who experienced menarche at an earlier age (13, 12 and <12 years vs ≥14 years: RR = 1.48, 95% CI = 1.11-1.98; 1.19, 0.89-1.61; 1.26, 0.93-1.73), and in women with older age at first birth (25-29 and ≥30 years vs <25 years; 1.09, 0.86-1.39; 1.48, 1.12-1.95; P-value for trend = 0.006). However, no significant association was observed for other reproductive factors, and for all exogenous hormone use. The associations of melanoma incidence for most reproductive factors and exogenous hormone use were not modified by ambient UVR, eye color, natural hair color at age 15 and skin complexion. The exception was that natural hair color at age 15 modified the associations of melanoma for age at menarche (P-value for interaction = 0.004) and age at first birth among parous women (0.005). In participants with blonde/red/auburn natural hair color at age 15, we found increased risk of melanoma among women who experienced menarche at age 13, 12 and <12 years (vs ≥14 years: RR = 3.54, 95% CI = 1.98-6.90; 2.51, 1.37-4.98; 2.66, 1.41-5.36, respectively; P-value for trend = 0.10). However, the association between age at menarche and melanoma was null in participants with brown/black natural hair color at age 15.
LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION: Information on reproductive history and exogenous hormone use was self-reported. We did not have information on specific doses or formulations of exogenous hormone medications or breastfeeding.
WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: Women residing in areas of high ambient UVR and those with blonde/red/auburn natural hair color may constitute an additional high-risk group in need of more frequent skin cancer screening. Identifying susceptible periods of exposure or factors that modify UVR susceptibility may aid in guiding more targeted guidelines for melanoma prevention.
STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S): This research was supported by the Intramural Research Program, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, US Department of Health and Human Services. Authors declare no conflict of interest.
TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: N/A.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by the Intramural Research Program, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, US Department of Health and Human Services. Authors declare no conflict of interest.
© 2022 Published by Oxford University Press.
- cutaneous melanoma
- exogenous hormone use
- reproductive factors
- ultraviolet radiation
- Risk Factors
- Skin Neoplasms/epidemiology
- Likelihood Functions
- Reproductive History
- Ultraviolet Rays/adverse effects
PubMed: MeSH publication types
- Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
- Journal Article