Military Personnel Have Greater Risk Factors for Cutaneous Cancer

military soldier
Soldiers lining up for the annual New York City Veterans Day Parade
Significant risk factors for developing cutaneous cancer in active-duty military personnel was explored and compared with that of the general population.

Military personnel may have a higher prevalence of risk factors for cutaneous skin cancers compared with the general population, including older age, fairer skin type, greater sunburn history, family history of skin cancers, and a greater number of dark moles on the arm, according to a study in Dermatology Therapy.

The study included 200 active-duty military personnel and students of a military academy. In addition, 1000 people not affiliated with the military were randomly selected from the general population and were included as a control group. The mean ages of participants in the control and military personnel groups were 35 years and 46 years, respectively.

All 1200 participants completed a questionnaire about participants’ age and height, skin type, sun exposure history, tanning habits,  time to achieve a sunburn without sunscreen, number of moles on the upper extremity, number of coffees consumed per day, working conditions, and hereditary risks for skin cancer.

In the military group, there was a non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) prevalence of 1.5% and a melanoma history prevalence of 1%. In contrast, the prevalence of NMSC was 0.8% in the control group. There were no cases of previous melanoma reported in these participants.

The significant risk factors for NMSC in the general population included age greater than50 years (P =.0004) and body mass index greater than 25 (P =.028). Risk factors associated with NMSC in the military group included age greater than 50 years (P =.048), sunburn during childhood (P =.041), and family history of skin cancer (P =.025).

In the military personnel group, risk factors for melanoma included having a fair skin phenotype and having more than 20 dark moles on the arms (P =.001). Consumption of more than 2 coffees per day was considered a protective factor against skin cancer in these participants (P =.046).

A limitation of this study was its questionnaire, which the investigators said did not explore participants’ general knowledge and awareness of skin cancer and protective behaviors.

The investigators of this study suggest that their “data should guide us to prepare prevention and early detection strategies in this group.” They also noted that an interesting finding of their study was the protective factor of coffee consumption against melanoma, and suggested that this be further explored.


Durmishi A, Fida M, Hoxha S, et al. Are military personnel at a more risk for skin cancers? Published online September 25, 2020. Dermatol Ther. doi:10.1111/dth.14340