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Lancet. 1994 Dec 3;344(8936):1529-32.

Sun exposure and melanocytic naevi in young Australian children.

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Anton Breinl Centre, Department of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, James Cook University of North Queensland, Townsville, Australia.


Queensland, Australia, has the highest rates of melanoma in the world and Queensland children have the greatest numbers of melanocytic naevi, the strongest risk factor for melanoma. Although both melanoma and naevi are broadly related to sun exposure in childhood, the relation to individual exposure early in life is difficult to study retrospectively in adults. We surveyed 506 children aged 1-6 years who had been born in Townsville, North Queensland. Sun exposure was assessed by questionnaire and melanocytic naevi were counted using a standard international protocol. Very high counts (upper quarter) of melanocytic naevi were significantly associated with sun exposure of more than 4 hours per day (adjusted relative risk ratio 3.29; 95% Cl 1.12-9.69), and with a history of sunburn (1.89; 1.11-3.21). Melanocytic naevus counts increased with age, light skin reflectance, and freckling. With exposure to intense ultraviolet light in Townsville, children develop melanocytic naevi early in life and in large numbers. We found that both acute and chronic exposure to sun are associated with their development.

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