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Study examines factors that may help explain higher melanoma rates in the Canadian Maritime province

Photo courtesy of unknown author via Wikimedia Commons

Men, wealthy individuals, and residents of some Canadian Maritime provinces are more likely to develop melanoma, according to the results of a new study from McGill University and other Canadian centres.

Published in Cancers, the researchers compared UV exposure and behaviours among different groups in Atlantic Canada based on income, education, and gender, among other factors they thought might help to explain why some Atlantic provinces such as Prince Edward Island (PEI) and Nova Scotia have the highest incidence rate of melanoma in the country. At the same time, neighbouring provinces such as New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador have rates below or comparable to the Canadian average.

The study found that higher-income individuals had an increased risk of melanoma. Risk factors included more lifetime sunburns, tanning bed use, and being tanned. Individuals with university education had higher rates of recreational sun exposure but were less likely to use tanning beds.

“A higher socio-economic status is known to be associated with more vacations in sunny climates and recreational tanning, which likely ultimately drives melanoma incidence in this population,” said Dr. Ivan Litvinov, an Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine and Chair of the Dermatology Division at McGill University, Montreal and one of the paper’s authors.

Other factors identified included:

· Individuals earning less than $50,000 a year were more likely to work outdoors and experience occupational sun exposure, placing them at a higher risk of developing skin cancer.

· Women had less sun exposure and practiced more sun protection compared to men.

· Women tended to wear fewer long-sleeve shirts and had more tanning beds sessions.

· Women were more concerned about new moles and were more likely to seek medical advice from a family physician.

· Men reported more lifetime sunburns and higher occupational and recreational sun exposure.

· Men also expressed more negative beliefs toward sunscreen use than women.

“To prevent skin cancer many Canadians really need to act on the knowledge they already have. Applying sunscreen is one of the effective ways to prevent skin cancer,” said Dr. Litvinov in a press release.

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