It's important to follow advice on how to prevent skin cancer. This includes limiting your exposure to direct sun and avoiding sunburns.

Being active outdoors does not increase risk of skin cancer according to Norwegian study

Physical activity and working out in the outdoors do not increase the risk of melanoma according to a large Norwegian study. But do follow the advice on protection against the sun, the researchers stress.

Several studies from other countries have found an increased risk of melanoma among those who are physically active. A new Norwegian study however finds that there is no such increased risk for the physically active.

Physical activity reduces the risk of several types of cancer. The question has been whether or not the increased risk of melanoma among the very active is due to the fact that they spend more time outdoors and thus are more exposed to the sun.

Less melanoma on the arms

“When it comes to melanoma on the arms, we even found that the risk was somewhat reduced for the most active”, Flavie Perrier says. She is a postdoc at the Institute of Basic Medical Sciences at the University of Oslo.

Together with professor Marit Veierød she has conducted a study on cancer which included 150 000 Norwegian women between the ages of 30 and 75. The women have on average been followed through 18 years. They have answered questions of how many minutes they have worked out, gone for walks or gone for bike rides at different times during a year.

While some studies from other countries have found that the most active people often get sunburns, the Norwegian study found the opposite.

“There was a higher share among the most active who did not get sunburns compared to those who were less active”, Marit Veierød says.

Follow the advice

People in Norway live in the north and are thus are exposed to a different kind of sunrays than those of foreign studies. The researchers believe this may have had an effect on the results. The participants were also on average slightly older than in several other studies, and they may have also been slightly less active. This may have affected the low levels of sunburn. The various studies that the researchers have compared to also vary in whether they define activity as something connected to work or leisure time.

Regardless of study results – it is important to follow the leading advice on how to avoid melanoma. These include both limiting time spent in direct sun and avoid getting sunburned. Clothes and shade should be used for protection, as well as sufficient amounts of sun screen lotion where no other protection is available.

Record levels of melanoma

Norway is among the countries in the world with the most melanoma. Only Denmak and the Netherlands have higher mortality rates due to this form of cancer. 2000 people get diagnosed with melanoma annually in Norway, and 300 people die. That so many get this disease is likely due to the fact that many Norwegians like to tan during the summer in combination with light skin.

“The reason is most likely these factors rather than the levels of physical activity. We have shorter summer seasons than many other countries, so when the sun finally comes we tend to go all out and get as much sun as we can”, Veierød says.

Translated by: Ida Irene Bergstrøm

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