May 22, 2013

It’s summertime and Israel’s beaches are just beckoning visitors. While having fun in the sun is enjoyable, covering up and using sun block is even more crucial. A new study conducted using extensive medical records of over one million Israeli adolescents shows clearly how exposure to the Israeli sun of young, light-skinned children increases substantially the risk of cutaneous melanoma — a serious form of skin cancer.

The incidence of cutaneous melanoma is on the rise across the globe. Rates have tripled over the last decades in the United States, and the rise was even steeper in Europe.

In Israel, researchers Dr. Hagai Levine and Prof. Jeremy Kark from the Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine found – not surprisingly – a quadrupled higher risk of skin cancer among native-born Israelis of European origin (including the Americas, Australia and South Africa) and those immigrating from those countries over those of North African or Asian origin.

Israel’s subtropical latitude means residents are exposed to more solar radiation than in much of Europe. Even those who spent their childhood in Europe need to take special care as the data showed that those who came to Israel before age 10 had almost double the risk of cutaneous melanoma compared to those who arrived from Europe later in childhood.

These findings, say the researchers, provide solid support for the importance of stressing the issue of childhood sun exposure, particularly in light skinned people, as a preventable risk factor for cutaneous melanoma and can aid in directing public health and research efforts.

The study on Israel and cutaneous melanoma was published recently in the International Journal of Cancer. In addition to Dr. Levine and Prof. Kark, researchers from the Israel Defense Forces Medical Corps, the National Cancer Registry and other institutions participated in the work.

Photo by Eldad Carin /

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Executive Director

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