Risk factors for basal cell carcinoma in a Mediterranean population: role of recreational sun exposure early in life

Arch Dermatol. 2001 Sep;137(9):1162-8. doi: 10.1001/archderm.137.9.1162.


Objective: To investigate the role of pigmentary traits, different patterns of sun exposure, artificial sources of UV radiation, and lifestyle-related factors on the risk of basal cell carcinoma (BCC) in a Mediterranean population from central-southern Italy.

Design: Hospital-based case-control study.

Setting: A referral dermatological hospital in Rome, Italy.

Patients: A convenience sample of 166 case patients with histologically confirmed BCC and 158 cancer-free control subjects with minor dermatological conditions observed between March 1995 and June 1997.

Results: In the multivariate analysis, the mean number of weeks per year spent at the beach before the age of 20 years was significantly associated with BCC. A dose-response trend was found for subjects who had spent 3 to 4 (odds ratio, 1.8; 95% confidence interval, 0.8-4.4), 5 to 8 (odds ratio, 3.7; 95% confidence interval, 1.5-9.0), or more than 8 (odds ratio, 4.5; 95% confidence interval, 1.9-10.5) weeks per year at the beach (P =.01 for trend). There was a significant association with the presence of actinic keratoses or solar lentigines, whereas no effect was found for skin type, history of sunburns, exposure to nonsolar UV radiation, and lifestyle-related habits such as cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, and coffee drinking. Subjects reporting a family history of skin cancer had an extremely increased risk of BCC.

Conclusion: The definite association with recreational sun exposure during childhood and adolescence and the strong relation with family history of skin cancer suggest that genetic predisposition and peculiar exposure patterns to UV radiation are key independent risk factors for the development of BCC in a southern European population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / ethnology
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / etiology*
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Ethnic Groups*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / ethnology
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / etiology*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Recreation*
  • Risk Factors
  • Skin Neoplasms / ethnology
  • Skin Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Skin Pigmentation / radiation effects
  • Sunlight / adverse effects*
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects*