Importance: While current evidence supports UV exposure as an important risk factor for cutaneous melanoma in fair-skinned populations, the evidence for this association in skin of color is less certain.
Objective: To critically assess and synthesize the published data regarding the association between UV exposure and the risk of cutaneous melanoma in skin of color.
Evidence review: A search was conducted including PubMed, Cochrane, and Web of Science databases from database origin to June 3, 2020. Only peer-reviewed original studies were screened in full text. Eligible studies analyzed UV exposure as a risk factor for cutaneous melanoma in people with skin of color, which was defined broadly as any race/ethnicity other than non-Hispanic White, Fitzpatrick skin types IV through VI, or tanning ability of rarely or never burns. Measures of UV exposure included UV index, irradiance, latitude, history of phototherapy, and history of sunburn. Evidence quality was assessed using criteria from the Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine.
Findings: After duplicate removal, 11 059 database records were screened, 548 full-text articles were assessed, and 13 met inclusion criteria. Study types included 7 ecological studies, 5 cohort studies, and 1 case-control study. All studies used race and/or ethnicity to categorize the participants, and more than 7700 melanomas in skin of color were included. Of the 13 studies that met inclusion criteria, 11 found no association between UV exposure and melanoma in skin of color, 1 study showed a small positive relationship in Black males, and 1 showed a weak association in Hispanic males. All studies were of moderate to low quality (Oxford Centre ratings 2b to 4).
Conclusions and relevance: In this systematic review, the evidence suggests that UV exposure may not be an important risk factor for melanoma development in people with skin of color. Current recommendations promoting UV protection for melanoma prevention in skin of color are not supported by most current studies. However, evidence is of moderate to low quality, and further research is required to fully elucidate this association.