Background: Except for skin melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancer, little evidence from prospective studies is available on the association between UV exposure and cancer risk.
Methods: We followed prospectively 49,261 women aged 30 to 49 years at enrollment in 1991 to 1992 for 15 years. Cancer incidence was analyzed by fitting Cox models, and estimating hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI).
Results: 2,303 incident cases of cancer were diagnosed (breast: 1,053, ovary: 126, lung: 116, colon-rectum: 133, and brain: 116). No associations were found between any cumulative measure of UV exposure at ages 10 to 39 years and overall cancer risk. However, spending ≥1 week/year between ages 10 and 29 years on sunbathing vacations led to an inverse association with overall cancer risk (HR: 0.70, 95% CI: 0.53-0.93) and breast cancer risk (HR: 0.56, 95% CI: 0.36-0.89) when compared with women who never went on such vacations. Solarium use was inversely associated with breast cancer risk, whereas ≥2 sunburns/year was inversely associated with lung cancer risk. No other associations were found between sun exposure or solarium use at ages 10 to 39 years and cancer risk.
Conclusion: We found no evidence of an association between any cumulative measure of UV exposure at ages 10 to 39 years and overall cancer risk. UV exposure earlier in life was related to reduced overall and breast cancer risk.
Impact: Further research is needed to define the amount of solar or artificial UV exposure that may, or may not, be beneficial for cancer prevention.