Reproductive factors, exogenous hormone use and incidence of melanoma among women in the United States

Br J Cancer. 2019 Apr;120(7):754-760. doi: 10.1038/s41416-019-0411-z. Epub 2019 Feb 28.


Background: Although the photosensitising effects of oestrogens may increase the impact of ultraviolet radiation (UVR) on melanoma risk, few prospective studies have comprehensively assessed the association between oestrogen-related factors and melanoma.

Methods: We examined the associations between reproductive factors, exogenous oestrogen use and first primary invasive melanoma among 167 503 non-Hispanic white, postmenopausal women in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. Satellite-based ambient UVR estimates were linked to geocoded residential locations of participants at study baseline.

Results: Increased risk of melanoma was associated with early age at menarche (≤10 vs ≥15 years: HR = 1.25, 95% CI: 0.92, 1.71; P for trend = 0.04) and late age at menopause (≥50 vs <45 years: HR = 1.34, 95% CI: 1.13, 1.59; P for trend = 0.001). The relationship between ambient UVR and melanoma risk was highest among women with age at menarche ≤10 years (HR per UVR quartile increase = 1.29; 95% CI: 1.05, 1.58; P-interaction = 0.02). Melanoma risk was not associated with parity, age at first birth, use of oral contraceptives or use of menopausal hormone therapy.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that increased melanoma risk is associated with early age at menarche and late age at menopause. Effect modification findings support the hypothesis that endogenous oestrogen exposure in childhood increases photocarcinogenicity. Future studies should include information on personal UVR exposure and sun sensitivity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal / therapeutic use*
  • Estrogen Replacement Therapy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Estrogens / therapeutic use
  • European Continental Ancestry Group
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Melanoma / epidemiology*
  • Menarche*
  • Menopause*
  • Middle Aged
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Skin Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Ultraviolet Rays
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal
  • Estrogens