Sun Protection Less of a Concern for Those Diagnosed with Skin Cancer, Study Shows

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • You would think that when you are diagnosed with skin cancer, you would become vigilant about protecting your skin from further damage but just the opposite seems to be true according to a recent study.

    Cutaneous malignant melanoma (CMM) is the deadliest form of skin cancer. Although it makes up only between 3 and 5 percent of diagnosed skin cancers, it is responsible for 75 percent of all deaths attributed to skin cancer. Exposure to the sun’s UV rays (UVR) is considered one of the largest causes of melanoma. Skin cancer patients are routinely told about the risks of sun exposure and usually given information on how to protect their skin - such as using sunscreen, wearing protective clothing, wearing wide brimmed hats and staying out of the sun between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM when the sun’s UV rays are strongest.

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    A recent study completed at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark found that those previously diagnosed with skin cancer actually increase the time they spend in the sun after their diagnosis. The researchers measured exposure to UVR in 40 participants, 20 who were diagnosed with cutaneous malignant melanoma and 20 control participants. Each participant wore a UVR dosimeter (in the form of a wristwatch) which measured the amount of sun exposure. Participants were also asked to keep a diary, answering questions such as “Did you sunbathe today?” and “Have you applied sunscreen today?”

    The results of the study showed:

    • Those diagnosed with CMM increased exposure to UVR by 25 percent in the second summer and by 33 percent in the third summer after diagnosis
    • Sun exposure also increased during vacations
    • 60 percent of CMM patients indicated they had been sunburned at least once during the study period as compared to 50 percent of the control group.
    • During the first summer after diagnosis, CMM patients were vigilant about using sunscreen but by the third summer they were no more likely to use sunscreen than the control group

    Researchers did not ask for reasons why sunscreen was not used or why participants increased their sun exposure. However, it became apparent that those diagnosed with CMM were much more lax in their attitudes toward protecting their skin from further damage.


    “Melanoma Patients Increase Sun Exposure After Diagnosis,” 2013, Oct. 2, Belinda Weber, Medical News Today

Published On: December 17, 2013