Photosensitizing agents and the risk of non-melanoma skin cancer: a population-based case-control study

J Invest Dermatol. 2013 Aug;133(8):1950-5. doi: 10.1038/jid.2013.33. Epub 2013 Jan 23.


It is well-known that UV light exposure and a sun-sensitive phenotype are risk factors for the development of non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC), including basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). In this New Hampshire population-based case-control study, we collected data from 5,072 individuals, including histologically confirmed cases of BCC and SCC, and controls via a personal interview to investigate possible associations between photosensitizing medication use and NMSC. After adjustment for potentially confounding factors (e.g., lifetime number of painful sunburns), we found a modest increase in risk of SCC (odds ratio (OR)=1.2, 95% confidence interval (CI)=1.0-1.4) and BCC (OR=1.2, 95% CI=0.9-1.5), in particular early-onset BCC, (≤ 50 years of age) (OR=1.5, 95% CI=1.1-2.1) associated with photosensitizing medication use. For SCC the association was strongest among those with tendency to sunburn rather than tan. We also specifically found associations with BCC, and especially early-onset BCC, and photosensitizing antimicrobials. In conclusion, certain commonly prescribed photosensitizing medications may enhance the risk of developing SCC, especially in individuals with a sun-sensitive phenotype, and may increase the risk of developing BCC and incidence of BCC at a younger age.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / epidemiology*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / epidemiology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New Hampshire / epidemiology
  • Odds Ratio
  • Photosensitizing Agents / adverse effects*
  • Risk Factors
  • Skin Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Sunlight / adverse effects
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects


  • Photosensitizing Agents