Here's how much sunscreen lowers skin cancer risk
Friday, May 20, 2016, 3:00 AM - Health experts have been touting the benefits of wearing sunscreen for years and now, a new study has quantified how much a person can reduce their risk of developing skin cancer by wearing sunscreen.
Researchers say wearing an SPF 30 sunscreen can cut a person's risk of developing melanoma by 80 per cent, based on lab studies conducted on mice.
“Sunscreens are known to prevent skin from burning when exposed to UV sunlight, which is a major risk factor for melanoma. However, it has not been possible to test whether sunscreens prevent melanoma, because these are generally manufactured as cosmetics and tested in human volunteers or synthetic skin models,” lead researcher Dr. Christin Burd said in a statement.
“We have developed a mouse model that allows us to test the ability of a sunscreen to not only prevent burns but also to prevent melanoma. This is a remarkable accomplishment. We hope that this model will lead to breakthroughs in melanoma prevention."
For their study, Burd's team used a group of mice that were pre-disposed to skin cancer and tested different brands of SPF 30 sunscreen.
They found all of the products marketed to contain an SPF rating of 30 reduced the odds of developing melanoma and tumors. While some sunblocks performed slightly better than others, Burd says that's because they had a higher rating than what they were labelled as.
Still, Burd says more research needs to be done.
For starters, the study was focused on animals and not humans. Also, the study focused only focused on UVB rays, and not UVA and UVC.
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Finding the right sunscreen is the first step towards preventing skin cancer. SPF 15 blocks 93 percent of UVB rays, while SPF 30 blocks 97 percent and SPF 50 blocks 98 percent.
Health experts recommend looking for a product that has "broad spectrum protection" on the label. This will protect against UVA rays, which can cause cancer and wrinkles, as well as UVB rays.
Apply sunscreen every two hours when outdoors and after a swim, even if the label claims the sunscreen is water resistant.
Hat, protective clothing and not going out into the sun are other effective preventative measures.
The Weather Network provides UV index updates multiple times a day.
The higher the index, the greater the risk of developing sun damage or a burn.
Still, it's important to apply sunscreen daily, even when the UV index is low. If you plan on being outside for more than an hour there's always a risk of sustaining sun damage, regardless of the index.