Using sunscreen daily can cut risk of skin cancer in half
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
March 23--For years, dermatologists have been telling Americans to lather on the sunscreen every day to prevent skin cancer.
There was just one problem with that: There was no definitive evidence that it really worked.
Now, finally, here's some proof.
A long-term study in Australia has found that people who use sunscreen every day reduced their risk of getting melanoma -- or skin cancer -- by 50 percent -- compared to people who used sunscreen occasionally.
Starting in 1992, Australian researchers followed 1,621 white Australian adults to study their sunscreen usage and their skin. The participants were divided into two groups. One group of 809 patients was told to use sunscreen as they usually did (38 percent of them said they never used sunscreen, while 35 percent said they used sunscreen infrequently.)
The other group of 812 patients was given unlimited supplies of sunscreen (SPF 16) with instructions to apply it to their heads, necks, arms and hands daily. In addition to reporting daily on their sunscreen usage, scientists weighed their sunscreen bottles when the participants returned them -- to determine how much sunscreen they were using.
No sunscreen was supplied after 1996, but the study's participants continued to answer questions about sun exposure, sunscreen use, and melanoma formation -- until 2006, when the extended follow-up ended.
By 2006, 11 people in the daily-sunscreen group had developed a primary melanoma, compared to 22 people in the group that used sunscreen at their own discretion.
The study found that the risk for developing any melanoma was reduced by 50 percent when participants used sunscreen every day -- and the risk for developing an invasive melanoma (a tumor that penetrates below the skin's surface) was reduced by 73 percent among daily users.