We investigated the associations between latitude and the incidence of two different types of ocular melanoma, external ocular melanoma (exposed to sunlight) and internal melanoma (not exposed to sunlight), separately. Using 1992–2002 data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program of National Cancer Institute, we identified 2142 ocular melanoma cases in non-Hispanic whites, and then regressed the incidences of various types of ocular melanomas with latitude. Our analysis indicated that the higher the latitude (away from the equator, the less sun exposure), the lower the risk of external ocular melanoma (eyelid and conjunctival melanomas) among non-Hispanic whites (P for trend = 0.018). The incidence increased 2.48 fold from 47–48° to 20–22°. This trend is very similar to that of skin melanoma. The incidence of internal ocular melanoma (uveal melanoma) increased significantly with increasing latitudes (the less sun exposure, P for trend < 0.0001), it increased 4.91 fold from 20–22° to 47–48°. The latitudinal patterns of ocular melanomas may reflect the dual effects of sunlight exposure, i.e. a mutagenic effect of direct solar radiation on external ocular melanomas and a protective effect for internal uveal melanoma, which is similar to the sun radiation protective effects for various internal malignant tumors that are not exposed to the sunlight.
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Vol. 82 • No. 6