January 4th, 2011

Sunscreen May Reduce Risk of Melanoma


Regular use of sunscreen may help prevent melanoma. These findings were reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Melanoma is less common than non-melanoma skin cancer but tends to be much more aggressive. Of the more than one million new diagnoses of skin cancer each year, roughly 62,000 involve melanoma. More than 8,000 people die of melanoma each year in the United States. What makes melanoma so dangerous is that it is more likely than other types of skin cancer to spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. Given the aggressive nature of melanoma, effective ways to prevent it are important.

Research has established that regular sunscreen use can help protect against non-melanoma forms of skin cancer. It has not been concluded, however, whether sunscreen can also help prevent melanoma.

In a study of 1,621 randomly selected residents of Queensland, Australia, researchers evaluated sunscreen use and melanoma incidence. Beginning in 1992, study participants (25 to 75 years of age) were assigned to either apply sunscreen daily or at their own discretion. Participants were also given beta carotene supplements (30 mg) or placebo through 1996. Participants were observed for melanoma occurrence until 2006.

  • From the end of the trial in 1996 through 2006 (observation period), 11 new melanomas were identified in the group who used sunscreen daily compared with 22 melanomas among the discretionary group.
  • Specifically, sunscreen appeared to substantially reduce the incidence of invasive melanomas.

These findings indicate that regular sunscreen use may be an effective way to prevent melanoma.  The authors of an accompanying editorial note, “To our knowledge, the trial’s findings are the first to provide strong evidence for a reduction in the incidence of invasive melanoma after regular application of broad spectrum sunscreen in adults.” They add that these findings are significant given a high rate of compliance among study participants and that the location—the region of Queensland, Australia—has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world.


Green AC, Williams GM, Logan V, et al. Reduced melanoma after regular sunscreen use: randomized trial follow-up. Journal of Clinical Oncology [early online publication]. December 6, 2010.

Gimotty PA and Glanz K. Sunscreen and melanoma: what is the evidence? Journal of Clinical Oncology [early online publication]. December 6, 2010.

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Tags: Melanoma, News, Screening/Prevention Melanoma, Uncategorized