Measures of cumulative exposure from a standardized sun exposure history questionnaire: a comparison with histologic assessment of solar skin damage

Am J Epidemiol. 2007 Mar 15;165(6):719-26. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwk055. Epub 2007 Jan 4.


Ultraviolet radiation exposure is the dominant environmental determinant of all major forms of skin cancer; however, the nature of the association is incompletely understood. Existing instruments to capture sun exposure history tend to yield reproducible results, but the validity of these responses is unknown. To address this question, the authors examined the relation between responses to a standardized sun exposure instrument and histologic evidence of actinic damage in a population-based study of keratinocyte cancers from New Hampshire diagnosed from July 1, 1997, through March 31, 2000. A single study dermatopathologist histologically reviewed the adjacent skin of 925 skin cancer biopsies for the presence of solar keratoses and the extent of solar elastosis. The authors compared these measures with responses to a personal interview on history of sunburns, sunbathing, and time spent outdoors. Focusing on site-specific exposure, they found variables that estimated cumulative exposure related to histologic evidence of actinic damage. In contrast, measures of acute/intermittent exposure were generally unrelated to solar damage histologically. Findings suggest that cumulative, but not intermittent, measures of sun exposure derived from a personal interview appear to reflect a person's exposure history based on histologic evidence.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biopsy
  • Child
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Environmental Monitoring / standards
  • Epidemiological Monitoring
  • Female
  • Histological Techniques / standards*
  • Humans
  • Keratosis / epidemiology
  • Keratosis / etiology
  • Keratosis / pathology
  • Leisure Activities
  • Male
  • Medical History Taking / methods*
  • Medical History Taking / standards
  • Middle Aged
  • New Hampshire / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Skin Aging / pathology
  • Skin Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Skin Neoplasms / etiology
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology
  • Skin Pigmentation
  • Sunburn / complications
  • Sunburn / pathology*
  • Sunlight / adverse effects
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / standards*
  • Time Factors