Statement from Brett M. Coldiron, MD, FAAD, president, American Academy of Dermatology.
Recently, a study in the journal Nature called attention to the fact that sunscreen alone cannot completely protect you from developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. In the study, which has received widespread media attention, a group of mice was exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Although all of the mice in the study eventually developed melanoma, the sunscreen-protected mice took significantly longer to develop melanoma than the unprotected mice and developed significantly fewer melanomas.
This is a powerful opportunity to emphasize two key takeaways: The first is that wearing sunscreen is an important tool in the fight against melanoma. Research has shown that daily sunscreen use can cut the incidence of melanoma in half. The second is that although sunscreen is a critical tool in the fight against skin cancer, it cannot completely ward off the sun’s harmful UV rays. In order to best reduce your risk of skin cancer, it is equally important to seek shade and wear protective clothing in addition to applying sunscreen to all exposed skin. For maximum protection, the Academy recommends that everyone generously apply a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
Current estimates are that one-in-five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is now the most common form of cancer for young adults 25–29 years old, and the second most common form of cancer for adolescents and young adults 15–29 years old. In addition, Caucasians and men over 50 years of age are at a higher risk of developing melanoma than the general population.
Unprotected sun exposure is the most preventable risk factor for skin cancer. The study in Nature underscores the need for people to pair their sunscreen application with these other, equally important life-saving behaviors.