Department of Dermatology, University of Münster, Von-Esmarch-Str. 58, D-48149 Münster, Germany, Department of Dermatology, University of Freiburg, D-79104 Freiburg, Germany, Dermatology Bad Bentheim, Paulinenkrankenhaus, Bad Bentheim, Germany
The growing incident rates of skin cancer and their corresponding precursor lesions, e.g. actinic keratosis (AK), among Caucasians have become an important public health problem. A multicenter case-control study was conducted to identify the risk factors of AK of a prototypical Central European population. The study population comprised a total of 331 cases and 383 controls. Using multivariate analysis we identified ten independent variables predicting the AK risk. The five most crucial were age (OR 1.11; 95% CI 1.08-1,14), gender (OR 3.92; 95% CI 2.42-6.36), history of previous skin malignancies (OR 6.47; 95% CI 3.21-13.03), pale skin phototype (OR 2.5; 95% CI 1.53-4.06), and sun exposure for occupational reasons (OR 1.72; 95% CI 1.01-2.92). Additionally, sun exposure for recreational reasons, denial of the use of sunscreens, painful sunburn episodes before the age of 20, and a familial history of skin malignancies are also significant independent correlates of AK. Our epidemiological data suggest that constitutional susceptibility and sunlight exposure are equally involved in the onset of AK. Additional prophylactic and educational efforts should focus on increasing sun protection policies and educational programs especially aimed at outdoor workers, men, fair skinned individuals and patients with a history of previous skin malignancies. These measures should be able to reduce the excessive incidence rates of AK among Caucasians in Central Europe.