Publication date: Jan 31, 2018
Head of Brisbane’s QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute Cancer Control Group, David Whiteman, said if Australians wore sunscreen regularly to protect their skin from UVB and UVA rays, then more than 28,000 fewer people would be diagnosed by 2038.
-If the whole population used sunscreen daily, then over the next 20 years, we would reduce melanoma incidence by about 34 percent,” he said.
However, Professor Whiteman believes a more realistic scenario would be to see the population increase its sunscreen use by 5 percent each year.
“Then we’d see a reduction of melanoma incidence of about 10 percent,” he said.
“You might think it would be a higher figure, but we know that sunscreen is not 100 percent effective – no sunscreen is – so sunscreen still allows some of the sun’s rays to come through and cause damage to the skin.”
Ultraviolet radiation causes between 63 and 90 percent of all melanoma cases.
The cancer is highest in the older population, with older Australians the most likely to benefit from the study’s findings.
The most effective sunscreen intervention in the short term to reduce melanoma was within that population,” he said.
“However, that only holds true if we assume the benefits of sunscreen use have an immediate and equal effect across all the age groups we looked at.”
During the study, Professor Whiteman and his team modelled a range of hypothetical scenarios to determine the impact sunscreen could have on reducing melanoma cases.
It included a “best case” example of every Australian using sunscreen daily, as well as mandatory sunscreen use for people aged 45 to 65 and all school children.
But while the results confirm that sunscreen can protect against melanoma, its use is hard to monitor.
-Even if participants in a study were to say they applied sunscreen every day, we know that there are differences in the amount of sunscreen a person uses,” he said.
According to statistics from the Cancer Council, the number of adults who recognise that sunscreen is safe to use on a daily basis has dropped to 55 percent from 61 percent in 2014.
People surveyed were concerned about potential negative health effects from sunscreen ingredients, and how the regular use of sunscreen affects vitamin D levels.
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