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Abstract

Our report deals with the relationship of pattern and timing of sun exposure to basal cell carcinoma (BCC) in a population-based case-control study conducted in Western Australia in 1988. The main measure of intermittent exposure was based on the amount of exposure on non-working days relative to that over the whole week. Outdoor recreational activities, holidays and sunburn were also considered to be markers of intermittent exposure. We observed a statistically significant increase in risk of BCC with increasing proportion of weekly sun exposure obtained at the weekend, especially in late teenage (OR = 3.9, 95% CI 1.9-7.8 for maximum intermittency of exposure), exposure of the site of skin cancer during holidays (OR = 1.9, 95% CI 1.1-3.1 for the highest exposure quarter) and sunburn to the site (ORs of 1.8 for 3-10 and 1.5 for 11+ sunburns in a lifetime). Risk of BCC increased substantially with increasing intermittency in poor tanners but not at all in good tanners. Our data suggest that a particular amount of sun exposure delivered in infrequent, probably intense increments will increase risk of BCC more than a similar dose delivered more continuously over the same total period of time.