(ChemotherapyAdvisor) – As might be expected, survivors of melanoma protect themselves from the sun more than the rest of the population. However, the fact that many do not seek shade, 27% never wear sunscreen, and 2.1% use tanning beds “remains a concern for their skin cancer risk,” investigators reported at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting 2013 in Washington, DC.

“We know that melanoma is a malignancy prevalent in our population, and we know that for many people with melanoma, sun exposure is a major risk factor for recurrence and sun protection may reduce their chances of getting melanoma again,” said Anees B. Chagpar, MD, MPH, Associate Professor of Surgery at Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, and director of the Breast Center at Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven. “Although we found that melanoma survivors did better than the general public at protecting their skin from the sun, we also found that more than a quarter of melanoma survivors never wear sunscreen.”

Dr. Chagpar and colleagues used 2010 National Health Interview Survey data on self-reported history of melanoma, sun protection practice, and indoor tanning to determine adherence to sun protection practices among individuals with a history of melanoma. Among the 27,120 adults included in the survey, 171 (0.74%) had a prior history of melanoma; 54.8% were men, and 10.2% were younger than 40.

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Compared with the general population with no history of melanoma, survivors were significantly more likely to stay in the shade (15.6% vs. 10.5%; P<0.001), and always wear a baseball cap/visor (31.3% vs. 18.4%; P=0.028), a wide-brimmed hat (20.5% vs. 6.1%; P<0.001), and/or a long-sleeved shirt (12.0% vs. 5.2%; P=0.003) when outside on a warm, sunny day for more than an hour.

Survivors “were also more likely to report always using sunscreen (32.0% vs. 17.2%; P=0.005); however, 27.3% of melanoma survivors reported never wearing sunscreen when going outside on a warm sunny day for more than one hour” compared with 35.4% of the general population, Dr. Chagpar noted.

No significant relationship was found between melanoma survivors and the general population in wearing long pants/skirts on a sunny day (22.2% of melanoma survivors always wear such clothing vs. 17.7% of the general population; P=0.404). In addition, melanoma survivors were less likely to have used indoor tanning devices in the past 12 months than the general public (2.1% vs. 5.5%; P=0.009).

“We now know that a significant proportion of melanoma survivors still could be doing better. This study speaks to what we could do to educate melanoma survivors on how to prevent recurrence,” Dr. Chagpar said.

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