Use of sunscreen is linked with elevated naevi counts in Israeli school children and adolescents


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Abstract

Epidemiological evidence indicates that a fair complexion and exposure to solar radiation in early years contribute to the proliferation of naevi and subsequent melanoma risk. To determine whether protection from sunlight is associated with lower naevi counts, we examined the prevalence and risk factors of naevi in a sample of Israeli school pupils. Whole body counts of naevi were recorded in 974 out of 1312 (74.2%) recruited pupils (7 and 12 year olds) from Ramat-Gan and Jerusalem. Host characteristics and habits of sun exposure were obtained using questionnaires. In each age group and geographic area, the mean whole body naevi counts, adjusted for confounders, were higher among males, pupils of European-American descent, and those susceptible to sunburn. The contributions to naevi risk of fair skin colour and frequent recreational sun exposure were higher among 7 year olds. Regular sunscreen use contributed to the naevi risk for both age strata in Ramat-Gan (at age 7, rate ratio [RR] = 1.7, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.3–2.2; at age 12, RR = 1.5, 95% CI = 1.1–2.1). Among the younger age group in Ramat-Gan, even seldom compared with no use of sunscreen was associated with higher naevi counts (RR = 1.5, 95% CI = 1.2–2.0). Similar patterns were noted with the pupils from Jerusalem. In conclusion, the elevated naevi count with increased sunscreen use indicates that sunscreens apparently do not modify the genetic predisposition to naevi proliferation. For better protection of children and adolescents, including those who use sunscreens, from the naevogenic effect of solar radiation, they should be encouraged to limit their exposure and wear protective clothing when in the sun.

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