Skin cancer in the military: A systematic review of melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancer incidence, prevention, and screening among active duty and veteran personnel

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Abstract

Background:

Occupational sun exposure is a well-studied risk factor for skin cancer development, but more work is needed to assess melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancer risk among US military personnel to improve education and screening efforts in this population.

Objective:

To conduct an extensive review of skin cancer risks for US military personnel to inform preventive education, diagnosis, and treatment efforts to better protect these individuals from future skin cancer development.

Methods:

A systematic review of published studies on the subject of melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancer in military personnel was conducted.

Results:

A total of 9 studies describing skin cancer incidence in the US military were identified, with 4 studies specific to melanoma. The study findings reveal an increased risk for melanoma associated with service in the military or prisoner of war status. Service in tropical environments was associated with an increased incidence of both melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancer among World War II soldiers. Two studies found that increased melanoma risk was also branch dependent, with the highest rates among the United States Air Force. Several of the reviewed studies implicated increased sun exposure during military service and lack of sufficient sun protection as the causes of higher rates of skin cancer among US military and veteran populations as compared with among the nonmilitary population in the United States.

Limitations:

The reviewed articles have variable results; a prospective randomized controlled trial would be helpful to develop interventions that mitigate skin cancer risk in the US military.

Conclusion:

This review identifies an abundance of evidence for an increased risk for skin cancer development among US active duty and veteran populations.

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