Objective: Exposure to ultraviolet radiation has consistently been linked to an increased risk of melanoma. Epidemiologic studies are susceptible to measurement error, which can distort the magnitude of observed effects. Although the reliability of self-report of many sun exposure factors has been previously described in several studies, self-report of use of artificial tanning devices and self-tanning creams has been less well characterized.
Study design and methods: A mailed survey was re-administered 2-4 weeks after completion of the initial survey to 76 randomly selected participants in a case-control study of melanoma. Cases and controls were individuals diagnosed in 1999 and 2000 who were ascertained from the Iowa Cancer Registry in 2002. We assessed the consistency of self-reported use of sunlamps and self-tanning creams, sun sensitivity, and history of sunburns.
Results: There was substantial reliability in reporting the use of sunlamps or self-tanning creams (cases: Kappa (kappa)=1.0 for both exposures; controls: kappa=0.71 and 0.87, respectively). kappa estimates of 0.62-0.78 were found for overall reliability of several sun sensitivity factors.
Conclusion: Overall, the survey instrument demonstrated substantial reproducibility for factors related to the use of sunlamps or tanning beds, self-tanning creams, and sun sensitivity factors.