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Pioneering Study Finds Sunscreen May Not Prevent Skin Cancer

June 13, 2014
Public Health

sunhatA study into the method by which ultra violet light damages skin cells by researchers at the University of Manchester has concluded that simply using sunscreen may not provide full protection from skin cancer.

Scientists discovered that UV light caused faults in the p53 gene, which plays an important role in protecting against DNA damage. By observing mice it became clear that sunscreen did reduce the amount of damage when used on its own, but did not offer complete protection. When SPF 50 sun cream was applied, skin cancers took on average 30% longer to develop.

Lead author Professor Richard Marais explained, “UV light targets the very genes protecting us from its own damaging effects, showing how dangerous this cancer-causing agent is,” he said. “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.”

Now the fifth most common cancer in the UK, more than 13,000 people every year are diagnosed with malignant melanoma, leading to more than 2,000 premature deaths. The latest findings support the approach taken by the Health & Safety Executive that provides advice to workers through their sun protection six point code, combining a number of measures to supplement the use of sunscreens.

You can download a copy of the HSE guidance on Sun Protection for Outdoor Workers here