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Past sun exposure is linked to a wide range of disease outcomes but is difficult to measure accurately. Silicone skin casts measure skin damage, but some studies show that age rather than sun exposure is the most important determinant of cast score. We examined skin damage scores from silicone casts of the back of the hand in a large adult sample (n = 534) with a broad range of past cumulative UV radiation (UVR) doses. Participants were ages 18 to 61 years and resided in one of four locations down the eastern Australian seaboard, spanning 27-43 degrees S. Data were collected by questionnaire and during a nurse-led interview and examination. Silicone casts were graded from 1 to 6, where higher score represents greater damage. Higher skin damage score was associated with lighter skin pigmentation [adjusted odds ratio (AOR), 4.51; 95% confidence interval (95% CI), 2.33-8.75], fairer natural hair color, particularly red hair (AOR, 11.31; 95% CI, 4.08-31.36), and blue/gray eyes (AOR, 1.72; 95% CI, 1.14-2.59). Higher cumulative UVR dose, particularly before age 18 years, was associated with higher skin damage score (AOR, 2.06; 95% CI, 1.15-2.67 per 1,000 KJ/m(2)), as was number of sunburns, even after adjustment for cumulative UVR dose (AOR, 2.86; 95% CI, 1.50-5.43 for >10 sunburns ever compared with no sunburns ever). Silicone casts of the dorsum of the hand provide a measure of cumulative UVR dose and number of sunburns over the lifetime, which persists after adjustment for chronological age. They can be used as an objective measure of cumulative past sun exposure in epidemiologic studies, but other determinants of skin damage, such as skin pigmentation, should be concurrently evaluated.

Original publication




Journal article


Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev

Publication Date





2887 - 2894


Adolescent, Adult, Australia, Case-Control Studies, Environmental Exposure, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Prognosis, Risk Factors, Silicones, Skin Aging, Skin Pigmentation, Sunburn, Sunlight, Young Adult