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World leading research confirms regular sunscreen use can prevent melanoma

Terry Slevin
19 March 2013


Groundbreaking research, conducted in Australia and published this week in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, has demonstrated for the first time that regular sunscreen use can prevent the most deadly form of skin cancer, melanoma.

Possibly the most important research ever conducted in assessing the effect of sunscreen in skin cancer risk, the study confirms what many researchers believed, but had not been able to prove, that sunscreen used regularly, reduces the risk of contracting melanoma.

We have known for some time that sunscreen use significantly reduces the risk one of the most common skin cancers, squamous cell carcinoma. However, for melanoma, which kills more than 1400 Australians each year, we have only been able to speculate that sunscreen might offer a similarly protective effect.

The Australian study, involving 1600 randomly selected residents from Nambour in Queensland, was conducted from 1992 to 1996. Half the participants applied sunscreen every day and the other half applied sunscreen as they would normally. After 15 years, the number of people who developed melanomas from the group who applied sunscreen daily during the trial was half that of the group who didn’t apply sunscreen daily.

Cancer Council regularly responds to concerns raised in the media and other forums about the use of sunscreen, which may have led some Australians to be wary about its use. Australians, who are at high risk of all forms of skin cancer, can now be reassured that regular application of sunscreen forms a vital component of the skin cancer prevention arsenal.

It is also worth pointing out that sunscreen formulas have improved since the trial was conducted. Sunscreens on the shelves of supermarkets and pharmacies today offer even greater protection than the SPF15+ sunscreen used in the Nambour study.

Released at the start of a long summer, the research gives us all good reason to think seriously about how we use sunscreen to reduce our skin cancer risk.



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