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Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2007 Oct;16(10):2136-43.

Melanocytic nevi and sun exposure in a cohort of colorado children: anatomic distribution and site-specific sunburn.

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Department of Preventive Medicine, University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center, 4200 East Ninth Avenue, Campus Box B119, Denver, CO 80262, USA.


Sun exposure and high prevalence of melanocytic nevi are major risk factors for melanoma, but the relationship between them is not well understood. This study examines the relationship between sun exposure (detailed by anatomic location and history of site-specific sunburns) and the presence of melanocytic nevi on 743 White children in Denver, Colorado. Parental reports of site-specific sunburns were collected annually for 2 years starting at ages 5 to 6 years. In the third year, nevi were counted and mapped by anatomic location. Nevus density was higher for boys (36.0 nevi/m2) than for girls (31.0 nevi/m2; P = 0.04). Nevus density was highest on the face, neck, and lateral forearms and was significantly higher in chronically versus intermittently sun-exposed areas (P < 0.0001). Compared with girls, boys had higher nevus density on the face, neck, and trunk, and lower nevus density on the upper arms and thighs (P < 0.01). In 2 years of reports, most subjects (69%) received at least one sunburn. The face, shoulders, and back were the most frequently sunburned areas of the body. When adjusted for host factors, total number of sunburns was significantly associated with higher total nevus prevalence (P = 0.01 for one burn). Site-specific sunburns were significantly associated with nevus prevalence on the back (P = 0.03 for three or more sunburns), but not on the face, arms, or legs. In this high-risk population, there is evidence for two pathways to nevus accumulation: by chronic sun exposure and by intermittent exposure related to sunburns.

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