Author(s): Armstrong BK
There is persuasive evidence that each of the three main types of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and melanoma, is caused by sun exposure. The incidence rate of each is higher in fairer skinned, sun-sensitive rather than darker skinned, less sun-sensitive people; risk increases with increasing ambient solar radiation; the highest densities are on the most sun exposed parts of the body and the lowest on the least exposed; and they are associated in individuals with total (mainly SCC), occupational (mainly SCC) and non-occupational or recreational sun exposure (mainly melanoma and BCC) and a history of sunburn and presence of benign sun damage in the skin. That UV radiation specifically causes these skin cancers depends on indirect inferences from the action spectrum of solar radiation for skin cancer from studies in animals and the action spectrum for dipyrimidine dimers and evidence that presumed causative mutations for skin cancer arise most commonly at dipyrimidine sites. Sun protection is essential if skin cancer incidence is to be reduced. The epidemiological data suggest that in implementing sun protection an increase in intermittency of exposure should be avoided, that sun protection will have the greatest impact if achieved as early as possible in life and that it will probably have an impact later in life, especially in those who had high childhood exposure to solar radiation.