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Sunbather Study: Using High-Protection Sunscreen Doesn't Mean More Time Soaking Up Sun

WebMD Health News

No Extra Sun Time for High-SPF Sunscreen Users

Aug. 15, 2005 - Sun worshipers who routinely use a high-protection sunscreen are not necessarily more likely to spend longer periods of time in the sun than those favoring sunscreens that offer only basic protection.

That's the conclusion of researchers who conducted a weeklong study tracking the sun exposure of vacationing sunbathers who used sunscreen with higher and lower levels of sun protection factor (SPF).

Their findings appeared in the August issue of Archives of Dermatology.

Nearly Half of All Cancers in the U.S.

Sun exposure has been shown to be the single most important environmental factor in the development of skin cancer. Behaviors that increase sun exposure may be a risk factor.

The rate of skin cancer continues to increase despite public health policies that stress prevention through minimizing sun exposure, wearing protective clothing, and using sunscreen.

Cancer of the skin is the most common of all cancers. It accounts for almost half of all cancers in the U.S. Most of the 1 million cases of nonmelanoma skin cancer diagnosed every year are sun related, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).

One of the best ways to lower the risk of developing nonmelanoma skin cancer is to avoid prolonged exposure to direct sunlight. Daily sunscreen use has been shown to decrease the risk of nonmelanoma skin cancer.

According to the ACS, while the cause of melanoma skin cancer is not known, there are several risk factors, including too much exposure to UV radiation. The main source of UV radiation is sunlight. Tanning lamps and booths are also sources.

Findings Contradict Previous Studies

"Some studies have suggested that sunscreen use might be a risk factor for melanoma," write the researchers. And it's been suggested that higher protection by more potent sunscreen may induce longer sun exposure by postponing warning signs such as sunburns or by providing a false impression of safety in the sun, they add.

In this study, 367 vacationers from four French seaside resorts were given one of three sunscreens:

  • SPF 40, labeled "high protection"
  • SPF 40, labeled "basic protection"
  • SPF 12, labeled "basic protection"

Brush up on Beauty

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