Objective: Women with active sunlight exposure habits experience a lower mortality rate than women who avoid sun exposure; however, they are at an increased risk of skin cancer. We aimed to explore the differences in main causes of death according to sun exposure.
Methods: We assessed the differences in sun exposure as a risk factor for all-cause mortality in a competing risk scenario for 29 518 Swedish women in a prospective 20-year follow-up of the Melanoma in Southern Sweden (MISS) cohort. Women were recruited from 1990 to 1992 (aged 25-64 years at the start of the study). We obtained detailed information at baseline on sun exposure habits and potential confounders. The data were analysed using modern survival statistics.
Results: Women with active sun exposure habits were mainly at a lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and noncancer/non-CVD death as compared to those who avoided sun exposure. As a result of their increased survival, the relative contribution of cancer death increased in these women. Nonsmokers who avoided sun exposure had a life expectancy similar to smokers in the highest sun exposure group, indicating that avoidance of sun exposure is a risk factor for death of a similar magnitude as smoking. Compared to the highest sun exposure group, life expectancy of avoiders of sun exposure was reduced by 0.6-2.1 years.
Conclusion: The longer life expectancy amongst women with active sun exposure habits was related to a decrease in CVD and noncancer/non-CVD mortality, causing the relative contribution of death due to cancer to increase.
Keywords: CVD; cigarette smoke; cohort study; melanoma; mortality; public health.
© 2016 The Association for the Publication of the Journal of Internal Medicine.