Prospective study of ultraviolet radiation exposure and risk of breast cancer in the United States

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Abstract

Although there are few environmental risk factors for breast cancer, some epidemiologic studies found that exposure to solar UV radiation (UVR) may lower risk. Prior epidemiologic studies are limited by narrow ambient UVR ranges and lack lifetime exposure assessment. To address these issues, we studied a cohort with residences representing a wide range of ambient UVR. Using the nationwide U.S. Radiologic Technologists study (USRT), we examined the association between breast cancer risk and UVR based on ambient UVR, time outdoors, a combined variable of ambient UVR and time outdoors (combined UVR), and sun susceptibility factors. Participants reported location of residence and hours spent outdoors during five age periods. Ambient UVR was derived by linking satellite-based annual UVR estimates to self-reported residences. Lifetime values were calculated by averaging these measures accounting for years spent in that location. We examined the risk of breast cancer among 36,725 participants (n=716 cases) from baseline questionnaire completion (2003–2005) through 2012–2013 using Cox proportional hazards models. Breast cancer risk was unrelated to ambient UVR (HR for lifetime 5th vs 1st quintile=1.22, 95% CI: 0.95–1.56, p-trend=0.36), time outdoors (HR for lifetime 5th vs 1st quintile=0.87, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.68–1.10, p-trend=0.46), or combined UVR (HR lifetime 5th vs 1st quintile =0.85, 95% CI: 0.67–1.08, p-trend=0.46). Breast cancer risk was not associated with skin complexion, eye or hair color, or sunburn history. This study does not support the hypothesis that UVR exposure lowers breast cancer risk.

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