Cutaneous nevi and internal cancer risk: Results from two large prospective cohorts of US women

Xin Li, Wenting Wu, Edward Giovannucci, Meir J. Stampfer, Xiang Gao, Jiali Han

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2 Scopus citations


Elevated cutaneous nevus number has been linked to longer telomeres. Recently, a large systematic Mendelian randomization study identified a significant positive association between telomere length and risk of cancer. Here, we hypothesized that higher nevus count, as a phenotypic marker of longer telomere, may be associated with increased risk of internal cancer, and prospectively examined the association between nevus count and total as well as site-specific cancer risk among participants in the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS, 1986–2012) and the Nurses’ Health Study 2 (NHS2, 1989–2013) using Cox proportional hazards models. During 3,900,264 person-years of follow-up, we documented a total of 23,004 internal cancer cases (15,484 in the NHS and 7,520 in the NHS2). Compared to participants who had no nevi, the multivariate hazard ratios of total cancer (excluding skin cancer) were 1.06 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.03–1.09) for women with 1–5 nevi, 1.08 (95% CI, 1.03–1.15) for those who had 6–14 nevi and 1.19 (95% CI, 1.05–1.35) for those with 15 or more nevi (p trend '0.0001). Moreover, because nevus count has been associated with risk of breast cancer previously, we conducted a secondary analysis by excluding breast cancer from the outcomes of interest. The results were very similar to those of our primary analysis. For individual cancer, most of the associations with nevus count were positive but not statistically significant. In conclusion, we identified the number of cutaneous nevi as a phenotypic marker associated with internal cancer risk, which may be explained by telomere biology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14-20
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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