Published on June 12, 2011
Adults who use sunscreen daily can drastically reduce their risk of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, according to new landmark research from Australia. Researchers found that daily application of an SPF 16 sunscreen to the head, neck, arms, and hands reduced melanoma incidence by half in study participants.
In the Australian study, led by epidemiologist Adele Green, MD, University of Queensland, more than 1,600 white Australian adults between age 25 and 65 were studied for more than a decade. The subjects were divided into two groups, one told to continue using (or not using) sunscreen as they always had, the other given careful instruction in proper daily sunscreen application. The subjects were monitored closely through daily self-reports of sunscreen use, as well as collection and examination of all the sunscreen containers they had used. Only 11 melanomas developed in the daily sunscreen users, vs. 22 in the control group, a 50 percent reduction. In addition, invasive melanomas (tumors that penetrate beyond the skin surface) were reduced by 73 percent (3 tumors vs. 11) and average thickness by more than half a millimeter in the daily sunscreen group.
The trial’s findings are the first to provide strong direct evidence for a reduction in the incidence of invasive melanoma after regular application of broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB blocking) sunscreen in adults. The scientists acknowledge that the study was relatively small and needs to be reinforced by further research, but consider their results convincing enough to recommend daily sunscreen application, along with “other standard sun protection measures like avoiding midday sun and use of protective clothing.”