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09-12-2010 | Article

Daily sunscreen use protects against melanoma


Free abstract

MedWire News: Regularly applying sunscreen to the head, neck, arms, and hands may halve a person's chances of developing melanoma, study findings suggest.

In the USA, nearly 69,000 people develop melanoma a year, and 8600 die, the report highlights, and reducing exposure to ultraviolet radiation is the only established way of modifying the risk.

The study, involving more than 1600 White Australian adults aged between 25 and 75 years, compared the risk for melanoma in participants who applied SPF 15+ sunscreen every day to their head, neck, hands, and arms for 5 years and those who used sunscreen only as often as they wanted to.

The participants were then monitored for the next 10 years and asked to complete annual or twice-yearly questionnaires on how much time they spent outdoors, their sunscreen use, and previous history of skin cancer.

During this period, 11 people using sunscreen daily developed melanoma, compared with 22 people who used sunscreen at their discretion.

Dr Adèle Green, from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Australia, and colleagues note in the Journal of Clinical Oncology that daily sunscreen use was particularly effective for invasive melanomas that spread deep into the layers of the skin and are harder to cure than pre-invasive melanomas, reducing the risk by 73%.

They conclude: "Our providing provide reassurance about sunscreen's ability to prevent melanoma.

In a related article, Dr Phyllis Gimotty and Karen Glanz, from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia, USA, comment that, given these latest findings, clinicians should advise regular sunscreen use to patients at high risk for skin cancer due to having fair skin, freckles, and a tendency to burn in the sun, encouraging them to make regular sunscreen use a habit.

They also say that "public health and cancer prevention agencies should provide clear instructions regarding the use and reapplication of sunscreen."

However, they point out that sunscreen use alone is not always enough and that excess exposure to ultraviolet rays should be avoided and protective clothing used.

"In addition, sunscreen use should be paired with regular self-examination of the skin," they conclude.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Lucy Piper