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Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology
Volume 63, n° 3
pages 430-439 (septembre 2010)
Doi : 10.1016/j.jaad.2009.10.011
accepted : 6 October 2009
Original Articles

Effect of hair color and sun sensitivity on nevus counts in white children in Colorado

Jenny Aalborg, MPH a, Joseph G. Morelli, MD c, d, Tim E. Byers, MD, MPH b, Stefan T. Mokrohisky, MD d, e, Lori A. Crane, PhD, MPH a,
a Department of Community and Behavioral Health, Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado Denver, Aurora, Colorado 
b Department of Epidemiology, Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado Denver, Aurora, Colorado 
c Department of Dermatology, University of Colorado Denver, Aurora, Colorado 
d Department of Pediatrics, University of Colorado Denver, Aurora, Colorado 
e Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Colorado, Denver, Colorado 

Reprint requests: Lori A. Crane, PhD, MPH, University of Colorado Denver, 13001 E 17 Pl, Campus Box B119, Aurora, CO 80045.

It has been widely reported that individuals with a light phenotype (ie, light hair color, light base skin color, and propensity to burn) have more nevi and are at greater risk for developing skin cancer. No studies have systematically investigated how phenotypic traits may interact in relation to nevus development.


We sought to systematically examine whether any combinations of phenotype are associated with a greater or lesser risk for nevus development in white children.


In the summer of 2007, 654 children were examined to determine full body nevus counts, skin color by colorimetry, and hair and eye color by comparison with charts. Interviews of parents were conducted to capture sun sensitivity, sun exposure, and sun protection practices.


Among 9-year-old children with sun sensitivity rating type II (painful burn/light tan), those with light hair had lower nevus counts than did those with dark hair (P value for interaction = .03). This relationship was independent of eye color, presence of freckling, sex, usual daily sun exposure, sunburn in 2004 to 2007, sun protection index, and waterside vacation sun exposure. The difference in nevus counts was further determined to be specific to small nevi (<2 mm) and nevi in intermittently exposed body sites.


Geographic and genetic differences in other study populations may produce different results.


The standard acceptance that dark phenotype is a marker for low melanoma risk and light phenotype a marker for high risk may need to be reevaluated. In non-Hispanic white children, dark-haired individuals who burn readily and then tan slightly are more prone to nevus development, and may therefore be a previously underrecognized high-risk group for melanoma.

The full text of this article is available in PDF format.

Key words : children, epidemiology, hair color, interaction, nevus, phenotype, sun sensitivity

 Supported in part by a grant to Dr Crane from the National Cancer Institute (RO1-CA74592).
 Conflicts of interest: None declared.

© 2009  American Academy of Dermatology, Inc.@@#104156@@