Dermatologists have been advocating for more consistent and conscientious sunscreen use for decades. They knew that this practice would reduce the risk of premature aging and some types of skin cancer. But until recently there wasn’t much good evidence to show that sunscreens could prevent the most deadly form of skin cancer, melanoma.
In Australia, melanoma is especially prevalent. A new study there has demonstrated that sunscreen use can reduce the risk of developing this skin cancer. In the study, more than 1600 adults were randomized to use sunscreen every day or only at their discretion. That meant some people in the control group used no sunscreen at all. Those in the intervention group were given an unlimited supply of broad-spectrum SPF 16 sunscreen and advised to apply it every morning and immediately after sweating or swimming.
The treatment period lasted five years and the volunteers were followed up for an additional 10 years. Those in the treatment group had half the number of melanomas compared to those in the discretionary group. A commentary in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that, “Regular use of sunscreen can effectively reduce the risk of developing melanoma for at-risk individuals.”
[JAMA, July 20, 2011]