Introduction and design: Squamous cell carcinoma of the skin (SCC), a common cancer in white populations, is related to sunshine exposure; however, relatively little information is available on how timing and character of exposure affect the relationship. The purpose of this study was to investigate the nature of the relationship of SCC to individual solar UV exposure after control for phenotype and pigmentary factors. All newly diagnosed cases of SCC were in men aged 25 through 79 years, ascertained in the province of Alberta from January 1, 1983, through December 31, 1984, who were approached for participation; 80% completed a standardized etiologic interview that was conducted in their homes by a trained interviewer. Control subjects were chosen at random from the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan subscribers list, matched only by sex (male) and age (within a 5-year age group). The response rate among controls was 71%.
Results: Subjects with pale skin and red hair had an elevated risk of SCC. Subjects whose mother was of southern European ancestry had a reduced risk of SCC. After accounting for pigmentary factors, no association was seen between risk of SCC and cumulative lifetime sun exposure. However, a strong trend toward increasing risk was seen with increasing chronic occupational sun exposure in the 10 years prior to diagnosis.
Conclusion: The results suggest that recent sun exposure (in the 10 years prior to diagnosis) may be important in accounting for individual risk of SCC.