Melanoma is the most common form of cancer among young adults aged 25-29 years and the second most common cancer in those aged 15-29 years. We reviewed all the evidence regarding risk factors for melanoma, looking in particular at childhood exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV). UV radiation is clearly the predominant environmental and thus potentially modifiable risk factor for melanoma. All activities related to tan-seeking behaviour and history of sunburns were shown to be significantly associated to melanoma. Host factors, such as pigmentary characteristics, and genetic predisposition plays also an important role. UV exposure is not only due to the sun but also to indoor tanning devices that have been shown to lead to an elevated risk of melanoma. The strongest evidence for a link between artificial UV and melanoma is found among individuals who had their first exposure to indoor tanning before the age of 30: they have a 75% increase risk of developing melanoma than individuals who had no exposure to indoor tanning. Prevention is very important, especially for children and young adults, as childhood and adolescence are critical periods in the development of later melanoma. Indoor tanning is a widespread practice in most developed countries, particularly in Northern Europe and the USA. In the recent decades more and more people, especially teenagers and women, are exposed to substantially high radiant exposures of UV through artificial sources and these trends raised a considerable concern. In fact the International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded that the association between skin cancer and exposure to solar radiation and the use of UV-emitting tanning devices are causal. Interesting analyses carried out in Iceland showed that when interventions to discourage sunbed use were introduced the incidence of melanoma among women decreased. All this evidence encouraged many countries to introduce regulations on sunbed use to avoid exposure before the age of 18.
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