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Australian Study Sheds Light on Sunscreen Use and Risk of Melanoma

By: Susan Reckling
Posted: Wednesday, August 15, 2018

There appears to be an association between the use of sunscreen in both childhood and early adulthood and the risk of cutaneous melanoma before age 40, according to data from the population-based, case-control Australian Melanoma Family Study published in JAMA Dermatology. Although total lifetime sun exposure did not appear to be related to melanoma risk, sun exposure unprotected by sunscreen was.

“Our results support the regular use of sunscreen to reduce the risk of melanoma in early adulthood and emphasize the need to reach all population subgroups with sun protection messages,” stated Caroline G. Watts, MPH, PhD, of the Sydney School of Public Health, The University of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, and colleagues.

The study population included 603 patients with questionnaire data on sunscreen use obtained via interview from 2001 to 2005 across 3 states in Australia. These patients, who were between the ages of 18 and 39 years, had confirmed first primary melanoma. A total of 1,088 unrelated controls of a similar age (between 18 and 44 years) were included as well. All groups contained more women than men, about 40% of participants had a university education, and most participants (between 58% and 73%) were of British/northern European ethnicity.

With higher use of sunscreen in childhood and across the lifetime came a lower risk of melanoma. Sun exposure unprotected by sunscreen was found to be significantly associated with the risk of melanoma, although total lifetime sun exposure was not. In subgroup analyses, “the protective association of sunscreen with melanoma was stronger for people reporting blistering sunburn, receiving a diagnosis of melanoma at a younger age, or having some or many nevi,” Dr. Watts and colleagues noted.



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