Sunscreen isn’t enough against skin cancer – new research

So you’ve made a batch of Green Prophet’s homemade organic sunscreen. And you’ve waxed your legs or chest hairs with our Arabian sugar wax. But home remedies are not enough to stave off bigger problems like skin cancer.

New research in suggests that sunscreen cannot be relied upon alone to prevent malignant melanoma, the deadly form of skin cancer.

The research appeared in Nature: “This research adds important evidence showing that sunscreen has a role, but that you shouldn’t just rely on this to protect your skin,” says Dr Julie Sharp, Cancer Research UK.

The research supports public health campaigns that ask people to both use sunscreen and cover up their skin with clothing.

The Nature study attempted to explain the mechanism in which UV light can cause melanoma, and scientists examined the molecular effects of UV light on the skin of mice at risk of melanoma, and if disease development was blocked by sunscreen.

Crucially, the researchers show that UV light damages the skin cells and causes faults in the p53 gene, which normally helps protect from the effects of DNA damage.

Sunscreen can greatly reduce DNA damage and slow the development of cancer. But protection from sunscreen is not complete.

Professor Richard Marais, study author and Cancer Research UK scientist, based at the University of Manchester, says: “UV light has long been known to cause melanoma skin cancer, but exactly how this happens has not been clear. These studies allow us to begin to understand how UV light causes melanoma.

“This work highlights the importance of combining sunscreen with other strategies to protect our skin, including wearing hats and loose fitting clothing, and seeking shade when the sun is at its strongest.”

Dr Julie Sharp, head of health information at Cancer Research UK, said: “We’ve known for some time that sunscreen, when applied properly, can help protect our skin from the harmful effects of the sun’s rays. But people tend to think they’re invincible once they’ve put it on and end up spending longer out in the sun, increasing their overall exposure to UV rays.

“This research adds important evidence showing that sunscreen has a role, but that you shouldn’t just rely on this to protect your skin. It’s essential to get into good sun safety habits, whether at home or abroad, and take care not to burn – sunburn is a clear sign that the DNA in your skin cells has been damaged and, over time, this can lead to skin cancer.

“When the sun is strong, pop on a t-shirt, spend some time in the shade and use a sunscreen with at least SPF15 and good UVA protection.”

Image of sunscreen on back from Shutterstock

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