Teenage acne and cancer risk in US women: A prospective cohort study

Cancer. 2015 May 15;121(10):1681-7. doi: 10.1002/cncr.29216. Epub 2015 Jan 8.


Background: Acne reflects hormone imbalance and is a key component of several systemic diseases. We hypothesized that diagnosis of acne as a teenager might predict subsequent risk of hormone-related cancers.

Methods: We followed 99,128 female nurses in the Nurses' Health Study II cohort for 20 years (1989-2009) and used Cox proportional hazards models to estimate the hazard ratios (HRs) of 8 specific cancers (breast, thyroid, colorectal, ovarian, cervical, and endometrial cancers, melanoma, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma) for women with a history of severe teenage acne.

Results: After thoroughly adjusting for the previously known risk factors for each cancer, we found that among women with a history of severe teenage acne, the relative risk increased, with a multivariable-adjusted HR of 1.44 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.03-2.01) for melanoma. We replicated this association in an independent melanoma case-control study of 930 cases and 1026 controls (multivariable-adjusted odds ratio, 1.27; 95% CI, 1.03-1.56). We also found that in both studies the individuals with teenage acne were more likely to have moles (52.7% vs 50.1%, P < .001 in the cohort study; and 55.2% vs 45.1%, P = .004 in the case-control study).

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that a history of teenage acne might be a novel risk factor for melanoma independent from the known factors, which supports a need for continued investigation of these relationships.

Keywords: acne, cancer, melanoma, mole, telomere length; androgen.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acne Vulgaris / blood
  • Acne Vulgaris / epidemiology*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Genital Neoplasms, Female / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin
  • Melanoma / epidemiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms, Hormone-Dependent / epidemiology*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Skin Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Testosterone / blood
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers
  • Testosterone