For several decades the incidence of cutaneous malignant melanoma (CMM) steadily increased in fair-skinned, indoor-working people around the world. Scientists think poor tanning ability resulting in sunburns initiate CMM, but they do not understand why the incidence continues to increase despite the increased use of sunscreens and formulations offering more protection. This paradox, along with lower incidences of CMM in outdoor workers, although they have significantly higher annual UV doses than indoor workers have, perplexes scientists. We found a temporal exponential increase in the CMM incidence indicating second-order reaction kinetics revealing the existence of 2 major risk factors. From epidemiology studies, we know one major risk factor for getting CMM is poor tanning ability and we now propose the other major risk factor may be the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) because clinicians find β HPVs in over half the biopsies. Moreover, we uncovered yet another paradox; the increasing CMM incidences significantly correlate with decreasing personal annual UV dose, a proxy for low vitamin D3 levels. We also discovered the incidence of CMM significantly increased with decreasing personal annual UV dose from 1960, when it was almost insignificant, to 2000. UV and other DNA-damaging agents can activate viruses, and UV-induced cytokines can hide HPV from immune surveillance, which may explain why CMM also occurs in anatomical locations where the sun does not shine. Thus, we propose the 2 major risk factors for getting CMM are intermittent UV exposures that result in low cutaneous levels of vitamin D3 and possibly viral infection.
Keywords: HERV; HPV; environment; latitude; melanoma; skin cancer; sunlight; ultraviolet; vitamin D3.