Birth cohort-specific trends of sun-related behaviors among individuals from an international consortium of melanoma-prone families

BMC Public Health. 2021 Apr 23;21(1):692. doi: 10.1186/s12889-021-10424-5.


Background: Individuals from melanoma-prone families have similar or reduced sun-protective behaviors compared to the general population. Studies on trends in sun-related behaviors have been temporally and geographically limited.

Methods: Individuals from an international consortium of melanoma-prone families (GenoMEL) were retrospectively asked about sunscreen use, sun exposure (time spent outside), sunburns, and sunbed use at several timepoints over their lifetime. Generalized linear mixed models were used to examine the association between these outcomes and birth cohort defined by decade spans, after adjusting for covariates.

Results: A total of 2407 participants from 547 families across 17 centers were analyzed. Sunscreen use increased across subsequent birth cohorts, and although the likelihood of sunburns increased until the 1950s birth cohort, it decreased thereafter. Average sun exposure did not change across the birth cohorts, and the likelihood of sunbed use increased in more recent birth cohorts. We generally did not find any differences in sun-related behavior when comparing melanoma cases to non-cases. Melanoma cases had increased sunscreen use, decreased sun exposure, and decreased odds of sunburn and sunbed use after melanoma diagnosis compared to before diagnosis.

Conclusions: Although sunscreen use has increased and the likelihood of sunburns has decreased in more recent birth cohorts, individuals in melanoma-prone families have not reduced their overall sun exposure and had an increased likelihood of sunbed use in more recent birth cohorts. These observations demonstrate partial improvements in melanoma prevention and suggest that additional intervention strategies may be needed to achieve optimal sun-protective behavior in melanoma-prone families.

Keywords: High-risk families; Melanoma; Skin Cancer; Sun exposure; Sun-related behaviors; Sunbed; Sunburn; Sunscreen use; Trends.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Melanoma* / epidemiology
  • Melanoma* / prevention & control
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Skin Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Skin Neoplasms* / prevention & control
  • Sunburn* / epidemiology
  • Sunburn* / prevention & control
  • Sunscreening Agents / therapeutic use


  • Sunscreening Agents